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MITRE COURT 



Jl "^alc of the 6ucat Qlitij. 



MRS. J. H. RIDDELL, 

AUTHOR OF 
"GEORGE GEITH OF FEN COURT," " SUSAN DRUMMOND, 
ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. IL 




LONDON : 
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 

publishers in ©rbinavg tc g)£r ^ajcsta the ^ttun. 
1SS5. 

[All Rights Reserved.] 




CONTENTS OF VOL. 11. 



CHAPTER 

I. IN A CLEFT STICK 
II. THE INTERVIEW - 
III. MR. GREGSON 
IV. IN DEEDES' OFFICE 
V. COMPATRIOTS 
VI. A GREAT CONCEPTION - 
VII. IN THE OLD HOUSE 
VIII. THE TIDE TURNS 

IX. MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL 
X. THE OLD, OLD STORY 
XI. THE NEW LOAN - 
XIL MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED 



PAGE 
I 

25 

44 
80 
103 
129 
168 
198 
216 
258 
287 
303 



Digitized by tine Internet Arcliive 
in 2010 witli funding from 
Duke University Libraries 



Iittp://www.arcliive.org/details/mitrecourttaleof02ridd 




MITRE COURT. 



CHAPTER I, 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 




R. FRANK SCOTT, to quote 
John Jeffley's statement » of the 
affair, "made off a sort of Hving " 
by sitting on a stool in a bill-discounter's 
office from nine in the morning till six 
o'clock at night. 

This statement was not quite correct, be- 
cause young Scott's stool chanced frequently 
to be vacant, while the clerk himself was run- 
ning about London on his employer's busi- 
ness, and his hours were often longer than 
those mentioned. Still, the main facts were 
beyond dispute. To Mr. Jeffley's influence 
VOL. II. 20 



MITRE COURT. 



Frank Scott owed his appointment, and he 
was very thankful to have secured it. 

When first he entered Fowkes' Buildings, 
he felt friendless and desolate, as a stranger 
can feel only in a great city. He had just 
come from the Mediterranean, and the 
captain of the vessel, in which he chanced to 
be the only passenger, recommended him so 
strongly to put up at Mrs. Jefifley's, that 
though the young fellow hesitated about the 
matter, he allowed himself to be over-per- 
suaded, and permitted his new friend to take 
him in tow, and pilot the Scott craft safe into 
that still anchorage, lying as within a snug 
breakwater just out of the roar and bustle of 
Great Tower Street. 

Mrs. Jeffley did not much approve of this 
new inmate. The captain who performed 
that necessary ceremony of introduction was 
a person who had never stood very high in 
her good books. Some misunderstanding 
about a gallon of Scotch whisky, which had 
been consumed by a favourite lodger, while 
paid for by the captain, had caused a reference 
to Mr. Jeffley; which Mrs. Jeffley regarded, 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 



and rightly, as an infringement of her pre- 
rogative as master of the house. 

Jack, in his " stupid way," at once gave his 
verdict in favour of the captain, a " mean, 
suspicious wretch nobody wanted to cheat, or 
thought of cheating." For a long time after 
that, Mrs. Jeffley felt all her rose-leaves were 
crumpled. 

" The idea," she said, " of making such a 
fuss about nothing ; and going to Mr. Jeffley, 
too, when a fresh gallon was offered as fair 
and handsome as possible." 

Over that matter the shoe pinched horribly. 
If honest Jack were innocent of knowledge 
concerning many things, he at least under- 
stood the difference between an old and a 
new whisky, and gave judgment accordingly 
in favour of the gentleman whose liquor had 
been consumed without his leave. 

For this reason Mrs, Jeffley never subse- 
quently looked with much favour on young 
Scott's friend. 

" Yes, he can have a room," she said, 
answering the inquiry as to whether the 
captain's companion might tell the cabman 

20 — 2 



MITRE COURT. 



to fetch in his luggage. " As you know, I do 
not care to take In people unable to give my 
price ; still, as you tell me he won't give 
trouble, and means to pay his way regularly, 
I'll see what I can do." 

It was not a gracious permission, or gra- 
ciously spoken. Nevertheless, the weary 
young man felt glad to avail himself of it. 

Ere many days were over, he and Mr. Jef- 
frey happening to meet on the threshold, 
spoke ; and Jack " took to him." 

Again they spoke, and Jack took to him 
more ; took to him with special liking, be- 
cause the youth said "he was tired of living 
among foreigners, would prefer a crust in 
England to a whole kid out there," meaning 
those distant lands, the inhabitants of which 
Mr. Jeffley hated more than, he confessed, it 
becomes any Christian to hate anybody, even 
" though he be a Papist," finished Jack, whose 
religious ideas were as mixed as his notions 
of geography. 

" He's one of the right sort," said Mr. 
Jeffley to the acquaintance whose good 
services he chanced to be entreating on 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 



behalf of Frank Scott. " I won't tell you 
he's very bright, because I don't know that 
he is ; but his head's screwed on the right 
way, and he'll be honest and painstaking, 
I'll go bail." 

It was in consequence of this temperate 
eulogium that place In the bill-broker's came 
to be secured. 

" I'd rather you were going anywhere else," 
remarked Mr. Jeffley, whose conception of 
the business of a bill-broker was crude in the 
extreme. His people had never had to do 
with such folks, and it is to be feared Jack 
imagined young Scott's employer was but a 
richer sort of bailiff 

" Likely as not a money-lender — sixty per 
cent, chap," which, indeed, the wealthy and 
respectable individual through whose hands 
millions per annum passed was not. 

His white hair would have stood on end 
had anyone brought such business to him. 

Queer paper, nevertheless, did find its way 
sometimes into Mr. Brintolf's office, No. 133, 
Birchin Lane — very queer — which it is but 
simple justice to say Mr. Brintolf only dis- 



MITRE COURT. 



counted because of the fiirms through whose 
instrumentaHty he made its acquaintance. 

Running brokers, too, brought strange 
documents thither, which sometimes were 
" put through," and sometimes not. Often 
the runnino[- broker's commission was of the 
smallest. Often, too, Mr. Brintolf, talking 
to his right-hand man, remarked : "We 
cannot have any more of this sort of 

thing ;" or, " Really, Mr. ought to know 

better." 

In such an office, of necessity little passes 
but what is known to the clerks. 

Mere machines they may seem to an 
outsider, or even to their principal — mere 
calculating figures, mere writing, copying, 
carrying machines ; but for all that, neither 
deaf nor blind. 

They may not have much money in their 
pockets, but they carry weighty knowledge 
in their heads. The}^ know the needy man, 
though his coat may be glossy, his hat new, 
his linen spotless, and his manner jaunty ; 
credit at his tailor's and unlimited impudence 
do not deceive them. It is as well known in 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 



the office whether from that inner room a 
man passes out empty or full, as whether 
the bills of some great firm have been duly 
paid or returned dishonoured. 

Often their information is fuller and more 
accurate than that of their employer. They 
are out and about — they hear words dropped 
that grow weighty when attached to other 
words ; without a syllable being uttered they 
read the meaning of a " reference" or a look. 
They know all the delicate shades of mean- 
ing attached to such phrases as " refer to 
drawer," "cheques not cleared," "will be 
attended to," and so forth. 

The writing on the wall was no plainer to 
Daniel than the story to which the notary's 
legend may in business be said to form 
chapter one of volume three. 

All these things and many more became 
familiar as the alphabet to Frank Scott 
before he had been in Mr. Brintolfs service 
six months ; what he never, however, could 
understand, was how his principal permitted 
himself to lose, for the sake of an eighth or 
even sixteenth per cent., thousands. 



MITRE COURT. 



Often firms known to the profane outer 
world as "shaky," whose paper was freely 
spoken of as " fishy," could get discount 
almost up to the hour of final suspension. 

" I would not do it," thought Frank, 
criticising, as is the manner of clerks, his 
employer's mode of doing business. 

No doubt Mr. Scott thought himself very 
wise in his generation — probably he was 
wise ; yet the fact remains that Mr. 
Brintolf continued rich, and Frank stayed 
poor. 

Once in his zeal the young man ventured 
to give his principal a hint that there were 
rumours floating about the solvency of a 
certain house ; but he was met with such a 
snub, he retired from the interview crest- 
fallen. 

" You'll perhaps keep a quiet tongue in 
your head for the future," sneered one of his 
fellows ; and he was so far right that if Mr. 
Frank Scott had heard on good authority 
the Bank of England was going to suspend 
payment, he would have uttered no warning 
note to Mr. Brintolf. 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 



" I wish you were out of it," said Mr. 
Jeffley more than once, but his protege did 
not make any complaint. He was an assi- 
duous worker, always ready, always willing, 
always punctual, always well. If he found it 
sometimes hard work to make both ends 
meet, he did not say so. Thanks to the kind- 
ness and favour of Mr. Jeffley, he enjoyed 
many advantages at Fowkes' Buildings. He 
was made free of the Sunday dinner at a 
mere nominal charge ; as a guest he often 
supped in Jack's sanctum ; he shared the 
master's fire, and Mr. Jeffley had always a 
kind look and cheering word for him — both 
of which were far more to the lonely young 
fellow's heart than the various material 
advantages he enjoyed through his friend's 
favour. 

Mrs. Jeffley was not always, as has been 
hinted, considerate to him, on occasion using 
her lodger, who had so little m^oney to spare, 
almost scurvily, and certainly grudging the 
liking that unworthy creature Jack enter- 
tained for a person who had come, nobody 
knew from where ; but all this did not ruffle 



MITRE COURT. 



Frank's composure much, or affect Jack 
Jeffley at all. 

" The lad has more packed away inside 
him than many people think for," he was 
wont to remark in his " slow" thoughtful 
manner. " He has more in him than / 
gave him credit for." 

" Pity he does not turn to and make some- 
thing out of it," retorted Mrs. Jeffley. 
"Why, as Mr. Katzen truly says, he's only 
earning boy's wages and doing man's 
work." 

" That's right enough," returned Mr, 
Jeffley, though not cordially, for he did not 
like admitting that Mr. Katzen could be 
right, even in so self-evident a matter. 

'' And why he refused such a good offer 
as Mr. Katzen made him I am sure I can't 
imagine." 

Mr. Jeffley thought he could, but he was 
wise enough to hold his tongue. 

" But there, I suppose he knows his own 
business best," proceeded Mrs. Jeffley. 

" I dare say he does," agreed Mr. Jeffley 
meekly. 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 



" Or thinks he does," snapped Mrs. Jeffley, 

"He tells me he is gaining great experi- 
ence," ventured Jack. 

"It is to be hoped it will do him some 
good," said Mrs. Jeffley. 

" I am sure I hope it will," answered her 
husband. 

" And I am very sure it won't," retorted 
Mrs. Jeffley. 

" I think you are wrong, my dear." 

" Time will show," was the reply. " Here 
he is, though, and I suppose wanting his tea, 
just as if he paid me thousands a year instead 
of a few shillincfs a week." 

" A man wants his tea whether he's rich or 
poor," declared Mr. Jeffley, which suggestion 
being only received with a disgusted " There ! 
get out of my way, do. Can't you see I want 
to open the sideboard ?" Jack repaired to 
a window that presented a view over 
nothing, and fell to whistling softly. 

In the middle of this performance Frank 
Scott entered the room. As matters turned 
out, he did not desire any tea — all he wished 
was Mr. Jeffley's companionship to the theatre. 



MITRE COURT. 



Two tickets had been given him, and he 
proposed they should repair to the Adelphi 
together. 

Mr. Jefiiey, however, refused to avail him- 
self of the chance. He was tired, he said, 
and too old to care for such things. If the 
Missis liked to ^o with Frank 

" The Missis has something else to do," 
interrupted Mrs. Jeffley. 

" Then perhaps some one in the house may 
care for the tickets," said Frank, laying them 
on the table ; " I won't go if you or Mr. Jef- 
fley don't." 

"Well, Fm sure!" declared ]^.Irs. Jeffley, 
but what she was sure of she never con- 
descended to explain. 

" Come out for a stroll, ]Mr. Jeffley, as you 
won't go to the theatre, ' entreated Frank ; 
'' it's a lovely evening, and a stroll will do 
you good." 

" Well, I don't mind if I do stretch my legs 
a bit," conceded ]Mr. Jeffley, moving lazily 
towards the door. 

" They're too long already," remarked his 
better half, unconsciously repeating an old 



AV .-I CLEFT STICK. 



joke, which, however, she did not mean for a 
joke. To her the whole business of her hus- 
band's misdeeds seemed most serious. 

" You need not be afraid ; they'll not orrow 
much more, mother, I think," said Mr. Jeffley 
with a deprecator}- laugh. " Come along, 
Frank I" And the pair departed, pursued by 
a shrill aspiration from ^Nlrs. Jeffley that she 
hoped they'd get '' home before morning." 

" Which way ?" asked Mr. Jeffley, as they 
emerged into Great Tower Street. 

" Any way that is quiet," answered Frank, 
" for I have something particular to say to 
you. ' 

" Let's take a turn, then, throuirh Finsbur\*. 
The Circus is quiet enough at all times. No- 
thing gone wrong at the office, I hope ?'* 

" Nothinor at all. The matter I want to 
talk to you about does not concern me, except 
indirectly, in the least." 

" All right, then," exclaimed ^Ir. Jeffiey 
cheerfully; "now I can wait with an easy 
mind till you like to begin." 

They were about to cross the street at 
Mark Lane, when thev met Abigail walkinof 



14 MITRE COURT. 



swiftly eastward. Mr. Jeffley lifted his hat, 
but Frank took no notice of her, while she 
looked at him as she might at a stranger. 

" Likely girl, that," remarked Mr. Jeffley, 
turning his head and looking after the re- 
treating figure. "You know who she is, I 
suppose ?" 

" Mr. Brisco's ward, isn't she ?" 

"Yes, that is so. Hillo ! there's Katzen — 
see him ?" 

Frank Scott did see that sfentleman scud- 
ding rapidly along in the direction Abigail 
had just taken. For a second he turned red 
and hesitated ; then, setting his face steadily 
northward, he said : 

" If we stop looking after everyone we know, 
we shan't get to Finsbury to-night." 

In the City, business was over for the day. 
The lanes, streets, and alleys lately teeming 
with anxious hurrying life were lone and silent 
as some country road. The men who had 
a few hours before hurried through them, 
intent on improving the last commercial 
moment that day might hold, were scattered 
north, east, south, and west. They were 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 1 5 



dressing for dinner in Belgravia ; they had 
partaken of tea at Bow ; some — care keep- 
ing them close company — sauntered through 
well-kept grounds at Dulwich, Heme Hill, 
Beckenham, and other favourite resorts close 
to the People's Palace ; out Enfield and Bar- 
net very many resorted, thankful for the keen, 
bracing air which seemed to string up their 
nerves for another wrestle with fate ; wher- 
ever they were scattered these City bees — at 
all events they had left for a time the great 
hive empty. To a few housekeepers, com- 
panies' porters, beadles, the members of the 
Fire Brigade, small retail shopkeepers, the 
care of the deserted City was entrusted. 

Children skipped on the pavement ; women, 
nursing their babies, stood in the doorways, or 
sat on the steps ; Italians ground out popular 
airs on asthmatic organs, while little girls 
danced and little boys gaped. The silent 
hour held its spell over that small, surprisingly 
rich, immensely powerful land guarded by 
a mythical dragon, and a scarce more real 
grasshopper. Anyone who liked to talk 
mieht have done so to his heart's content. 



1 6 • MITRE COURT. 



" What is hindering you ?" asked Mr. 
Jeffley. " We are quiet enough now in all 
conscience." 

" Wait a minute," said Frank ; " I think I 
shall be able to talk better in the Circus. 

They turned along New Broad Street and 
walked on in silence till they had passed 
Moorfields Chapel and were close to the 
London Institution, then the younger man 
slipped his hand within Jack's arm. What a 
brawny arm ' it was ! — what a stalwart fellow ! 
Upright in mind and body, Frank felt his 
friend to be. 

" Well, old boy ?" said Jack interrogatively, 
but Frank only drew a little nearer to his 
side — a little nearer still. 

" Doesn't this suit you ?'' asked Mr. Jeffley. 
" Why, you must be hard to please. Come 
— out with whatever it is you have in your 
mind. Screw up your courage. Like a bad 
tooth — one wrench, and it will be over." 

Frank laughed. 

" I am going to ask you something," he 
said. " You must not be offended." 

" Go ahead — it's not easy to offend me." 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 17 

" I only want to know if your people have 
latterly found their business falling off at 
all ?" 

Jack^Jeffley stopped short. 

" What the concern is that of yours ?" 

he retorted. 

The expression Jack used was very strong 
Indeed, for he felt both surprised and 
angry. 

" Do not eat me up alive before I have 
said what I want to say," entreated the other. 
" Why can't you give me a straight answer 
to a straight question } I did not ask it out 
of mere curiosity, believe me." 

" I don't care what the deuce you asked it 
out of," returned Mr. Jeffley. " If you think 
you are going to get me to talk about the 
affairs of my employers you are confoundedly 
mistaken — that's all !" 

" Then you won't tell me ? No, you need 
not try to throw me off, for I have a great 
deal to tell you " 

•' Have you ? And suppose I don't want 
to hear it ?" 

" I intend that you shall hear it. Come, 

VOL. II. 21 



MITRE COURT. 



Mr. Jeffley, hasn't trade been somewhat dull 
lately ?" 

" Now look here," said the person thus 
addressed, stopping suddenly in the middle of 
the pavement, and surveying his comf)anion 
with eyes full of amazed and sad rebuke. 
" I don't want to quarrel with you, but I 
must if you go on in this way. When I first 
went to Deedes I said to myself, ' Now, 
Jack, you must mind what you're about. 
Talk as much as you like about your own 
affairs, but no talk, if you please, concerning 
your masters'. Whether they are doing well 
or ill, say nothing. Turn the key on your 
mouth as you do on the cellars.' I have 
done that during all the years I've been with 
them. No man, or woman either, has 
known aught of Deedes' business through 
me. What I've never mentioned to my own 
wife it's unlikely I'd speak about to a 
stripling like yourself, so drop it — that's all 
I've to say. One word's as good as ten 
when a man's in earnest. Drop it, or I'll 
have to drop you." 

" No, Mr. Jeffiey, you won't," replied 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 19 

Frank ; " not even when I tell you that 
without word from you I know Deedes' 
business has been falling off. No — I shall 
not stop now till I have finished my say. 
You ' can't think where the trade is oroine.' 
Messrs. Deedes don't know where the trade 
has gone, but I know. Mr. Gregson, though 
drawing a salary from your house, is working 
a business on his own account, and if your 
people do not put a spoke in his wheel, they 
will soon find themselves without custom — 
that's all." 

As Frank Scott proceeded in his sentence 
Mr. Jeffley's face was a study. Horror and 
incredulity were stamped upon it, and for a 
moment after the stream of information 
ceased to inundate him, he remained silent, 
like one suddenly stricken dumb. 

" Repeat that all again, will you ?" he said 
at last; "it's a good joke, I dare say, but I 
scarcely grasp the full beauty of it yet. I 
never was, to say, very quick." 

" There is not much of joke about the 
matter," answered Frank. " Your manager 
has been skimming the cream of your trade 

21 — 2 



MITRE COURT. 



for many a month past. If that is a jest, I 
cannot see it." 

" Get along with you, do !" exclaimed Mr. 
Jeffley, giving the young man a playful 
shove. " For a minute you frightened me — 
made my heart leap into my mouth — but I 
know you are only making fun. Mr. Greg- 
son a rogue — why, you will be saying next I 
have been robbing the firm !" 

" No, I will not ; but I know and will stick 
to what I say, that Mr. Gregson is carrying 
on a business in King Street, Piccadilly, 
under another name, and that he is gradually 
working up a connection there." 

"Oh! this is going a trifle too far," said 
Mr. Jeffley, laughing uneasily. " Perhaps as 
you have told me so much, you won't mind 
adding the name he trades under ?" 

" I was going to tell you that. He is 
associated with Rothsattel and Co., who are 
considered to import the finest Rhenish and 
Moselle wines that find their way into 
London." 

" Rothsattel and Co. !" repeated Jack Jeffley, 
stunned. 



IN A CLEFT STICK. 



" Yes, they have offices In King Street ; 
one restaurant in Crown Court ; another 
just out of Leicester Square ; and a third 
in Paul's Bakehouse Yard, GodHman 
Street." 

" Do you know what you are saying ?" 
asked Mr. Jeffley. 

''Certainly I do. I can give you chapter 
and verse for every statement I have ad- 
vanced. Mr. Gregson is selling some of your 
firm's old port and special sherries in order 
to attract custom, but before long he will be 
strong enough to kick St. Dunstan's Hill 
over ; and when he does, if Messrs. Deedes 
let him go on long enough, they may look 
out — that is all." 

" But how did you come to an understand- 
ing of all this ?" asked Mr. Jeffley. 

" By keeping my mouth shut and my eyes 
and ears open," answered Frank shortly. " I 
have had my suspicions for a long time ; but 
I would not speak till I had proof positive. 
As sure as I stand here Mr. Gregson is 
underselling you, and sending your customers 
to Rothsattel, where they can get such hock 



MITRE COURT. 



and claret as cannot be Had except for fabulous 
prices elsewhere." 

" I don't believe it," said Mr. Jeffley. " I 
do not mean that I think you are inventing 
the story, but you are deceived, that is all. 
You are mistaken — totally " 

" Am I ? Oh ! very well — perhaps I may 
be — only let there be no mistake on one 
point. Do not forget I have warned you in 
time ; and when the worst comes, hold me 
blameless." 

" Wait a minute, wait a minute, don't be in 
such a hurry. Can you wonder at my being 
loth to take in a story like this all at once ? 
It is not easy to gulp it down. Though I 
never was over and above partial to Mr. 
Gregson, still, you know, this goes beyond 
everything. It is impossible to credit that a 
man of his character and holding his position 
could turn out such a blackguard." 

" I do not ask you to credit what I have 
taken a lot of time to find out, but I am ready 
to stand to it anywhere and before any one. 
Tell your people or not, just as you like. 
The matter does not concern me, but I have 



AV A CLErr STICK. 23 



a shrewd suspicion you will find it affect 
you." 

** Dear — dear," said Mr. Jeffley piteously, 
" what a hot-headed chap you are ! You first 
take my breath away, and then you abuse me 
like a pickpocket, because I can't see as you 
do. Here's a nice cleft stick you put me in. 
There never was a fellow hated mischief- 
making and story-telling more than I do. 
I've tried to steer a clear course — to keep 
out of trouble and make none. With what 
sort of a face could I go before my gentlemen 
and say, ' Mr. Gregson, while pocketing your 
money, is slyly cutting your throat ' ? They 
would think I was mad, and send for a police- 
man and a strait-waistcoat." 

" I have no doubt they would," replied 
young Scott, "if you spoke as you speak to 
me, and looked as you are looking now ! 
Better consider what I have told you, and 
what I can prove ; but I warn you there is 
no time to lose. Take your courage in your 
hand about ten o'clock to-morrow, and let 
your firm know how the case stands. Sup- 
posing they want me, send a line to Birchin 



MITRE COURT. 



Lane, and I'll run round in the middle of the 
day." 

"See, Scott," began Mr. Jeffley, " do you 
mean this seriously ; do you say, upon your 
sozd, what you have told me is all gospel 
truth — that you think it is my bounden duty 
to let the people I serve know they are being 
cheated .'^" 

" Upon my soul, I have told you nothing 
but what is the bare truth, and if you do not 
let your people know at once you will repent 
your silence," 

There ensued a moment of irresolution ; 
then in the twilight Frank could see his 
friend's countenance hardening into determi- 
nation. 

" I won't sleep on it," he said at last. 
" Come along with me (you'll face it out too, 
won't you ?) to Mr. Fulmer ; he lives with his 
mother in Hamilton Place, close by Hyde 
Park Corner. We'll take a Piccadilly 'bus at 
the Bank. You make no objection, I suppose ?" 

'' I make no objection," answered the 
younger man ; " that which I have said I 
will stick to." 




CHAPTER II. 



THE INTERVIEW. 




R. FULMER proved to be at 
home, and on sending in their 
names Jack and his friend were 
ushered into a hbrary, where, so said the 
servant, his master would soon see them. 

Jack sat down near the door. Frank took 
a chair at a Httle distance. Neither addressed 
a word to the other ; since leaving Finsbury 
Circus they had not spoken a syllable. When 
young Scott would have settled the fare, Mr. 
Jeffley, with a mute gesture, signified that he 
meant to be paymaster. Had both men been 
going to execution they could not have showed 
a graver or steadier front. Had Jack repaired 
to Hamilton Place to confess that since his 



26 MITRE COURT. 



first entry into Messrs. Deedes' service his 
life could not be regarded save as a long 
fraud, his face could scarcely have seemed 
sadder, or his manner been more overstrung. 
Great emotions were in fact things quite out 
of his line. He would have made a wretched 
tragedian. To his simple mind it appeared 
horrible that wickedness could exist at all ; 
but that it should enter even into that holy 
of holies, Deedes' offices, and in the shape of 
a trusted and confidential servant, appeared 
worse still. Further, he did not feel at all 
satisfied as to how Mr. Fulmer might receive 
his communication. He had doubts about 
Frank Scott, just as the Israelites had when 
they saw David starting to meet the Philistine 
with naught in his hand save a sling and five 
smooth stones. He believed the young fellow 
was confident of the righteousness of his case; 
but Mr. Fulmer might not see with his eyes, 
or hear with his ears, and if he failed to do 
so, Jack did not of course know exactly what 
might come to pass. Only he thought 
storms would ensue — storms and tempests 
likely to render Deedes' cellars anything 



THE INTERVIEW. 27 

rather than safe or pleasant places in which 
to remain. 

However, if a thing had to be done, the 
sooner it was done the better. Jack felt that 
after such a communication he could not 
have closed his eyes the whole night long. 

If the story were a mistake — why, Mr. 
Fulmer was the proper person to satisfy 
himself on that point. To Jack Jeffley's 
possibly dull mind there seemed to be but 
one course to take, and so he took it. 
Supposing it necessary to open such a dread- 
ful budget, nothing could be gained by 
deferring the operation till the next morning. 
For good or for evil he would get the affair 
over ; and having thus determined, he sat 
silent, w^hile Frank Scott sat silent too. 

On the mantelpiece a clock ticked softly. 
It chimed three-quarters past eight o'clock, 
then four. While the last stroke of nine was 
sounding, the door opened and Mr. Fulmer 
came in. He was a large man, taller than 
Mr. Jeffley, and about twice his girth. He 
had a bull neck, a broad forehead, grizzly 
black hair, which had already served its 



MITRE COURT. 



owner the scurvy trick of leaving him partly 
bald ; shaggy eyebrows ; dark, not unkindly 
eyes ; a short nose inclined to turn up ; a 
large mouth destitute of corners ; a great 
expanse of closely shaved chin — an even 
greater expanse of face destitute of any 
natural ornament save a bristling, greyish 
moustache ; not an atom of breed in a single 
feature, though his m.other was an earl's 
daughter, but yet with a certain look of 
power about him inherited possibly from the 
paternal Fulmer, who had left enough money 
behind him to render his son a very important 
partner in the St. Dunstan Hill firm. 

His garments fitted him as tightly as clothes 
could do. The tailor's skill must have been 
put on its mettle to compass such a miracle 
of bracino--in. 

Both men rose at his entrance. 

" Be seated — be seated," he said with a 
lordly air. " Sorry to have kept you waiting, 
Jeffley, but I was at dinner. What is it .^ — 
warehouse not on fire, I hope ?" 

"No, the warehouse is not on fire, sir ; at 
least it was not when I saw it last. I have 



THE INTERVIEW. 



come about a worse matter than fire, I am 
afraid." 

" Worse matter than fire !" repeated Mr. 
Fuhner. " Why, what could be worse ? Mr. 
Deedes is not dead, is he ?" 

" Not that I am aware of, sir. The fact 

is " but here Jack broke down abruptly 

and looked appealingly towards Frank Scott. 

"What is the fact?" asked Mr. Fulmer, 
glancing impatiently from one to the other 
of his visitors. "If you are aware of the 
nature of what Mr. Jeffley has come to say," 
he added, speaking direct to Frank Scott, 
" help him out, will you ? Don't let us keep 
the matter dawdling about all the evening." 

" Mr. Jefiiey wants to tell you something 
concerning your manager, which he thinks it 
behoves you to know," answered the younger 
man thus appealed to. 

"About Gregson ? He has not bolted, 
has he ?" 

" No, he has not bolted," answered Mr. 
Jeffley, adopting for convenience' sake his 
principal's unconventional expression, and 
indeed too dazed to know well what he was 



30 MITRE COURT. 



saying ; " but I hear he is working a business 
on his own account, and " 

" Stop a moment," commanded Mr. Fulmer. 
" When did you hear this ?" 

" To-night, sir ; an hour ago." 

" How did you hear it ?" 

" He heard it from me," said Frank Scott 
boldly. 

" This is a very serious charge," observed 
Mr. Fulmer. " I hope you are prepared to 
substantiate it ?" 

" I think I can substantiate it," answered 
the young man with modest assurance. But 
to Jack Jeffley that word "think" sounded 
like the knell of doom. 

" You shall tell me the story your own 
way," observed Mr. Fulmer, in that quiet 
tone which conveyed such an idea of power ; 
" but first I wish to know who you are." 

*' My name is Francis Scott," was the 
reply. " I am clerk in Mr. Brintolfs office 
in Birchin Lane, and I lodge with Mr. 
Jeffley." 

"What is Mr. Brintolf?" 

" A bill-broker." 



THE INTERVIEW. 31 



" Very good ; now go on." 

Frank Scott went on. He told how, being 
on one occasion instructed to call and order 
some Rhenish wine for Mr. Brintolf from 
Messrs. Rothsattel and Co., the invoice was 
made out for him by Mr. Gregson, whom he 
knew by sight. 

'* I thought that odd," proceeded the young 
man, " but the matter slipped from my 
memory till I had occasion to go to Roth- 
sattels' again. That time I did not see Mr. 
Gregson, but I heard his voice in the 
counting-house. He and Mr. Conrad Roth- 
sattel — as I learnt afterwards the younger 
Mr. Rothsattel is called — were talking in 
German. I understand German, and as 
they were not speaking in whispers, I soon 
gathered Mr. Gregson had a large stake in 
the King Street business. Then it occurred 
to me something strange must be going on, 
because I could not imagine it likely you 
would give your consent to such an arrange- 
ment. Still, in London one never knows. 
After a while, however, two of Mr. Brintolf 's 
customers began to talk in our office about 



MITRE COURT. 



the quality of Rothsattels' wines. One said 
they were selling wonderfully fine ports and 
sherries at a comparatively low rate ; the 
other said he had dealt with you for years, 
and defied any firm in London to beat you in 
quality ; his friend laughed, and advised him 
to give Rothsattels' a trial. They got their 
Spanish wines, he assured the other, from 
the same house as supplied you, and yet they 
sold the same or a superior article at five- 
and-twenty per cent. less. The very next 
day I saw your van delivering wine at Roth- 
sattels' place in Leicester Square. Then I 
began to get uneasy, and thought I would 
devote myself a litde to finding out the rights 
of the matter." 

"And you discovered " 

"That Mr. Gregson is drawing on Roth- 
sattel and Co., and Rothsattel and Co. are 
drawing on Gregson ; that they are both 
paying pretty high for having their paper 
done — that when any of your customers want, 
say, a fine Moselle wine, Mr. Gregson 
remarks, ' You had better go to Rothsattels' 
in King Street, Piccadilly, our firm never 



THE INTERVIEW. 33 

touch those light wines.' Then when the 
man goes to King Street he is asked to taste 
one of your own sherries, and told he can be 
supplied at some low figure. Of course the 
object is to work up a trade. Almost any 
day Mr. Gregson may announce his intention 
of leaving you, but meantime he is doing you 
all the injury he possibly can." 

"It sounds ingenious — and there may be 
something in what you suggest," observed 
Mr. Fulmer. " May I ask how you came to 
be cognizant of that little matter of the cross 
bills ? Through your employer's books, eh ?" 

" No," answered Frank, colouring a little. 
"Mr. Brintolf has never, so far as I am 
aware, had any other dealings with Roth- 
sattel or Gregson than purchasing a few 
dozens of Nierstein, for which his son, who 
is delicate, has a fancy." 

" Then how did you get to know so much 
about this affair ?" 

" I would rather not tell you, because the 
person who mentioned these bills to me 
might get into trouble. He spoke casually 
on the subject — quite accidentally. He did 

VOL. II. 22 



34 MITRE COURT. 



not know at the time I had any interest in 
the people, and he does not know now." 

" You have busied yourself considerably to 
get at all these details." 

" Yes, I suppose I have." 

" And what do you expect to receive in 
return ?" 

" I am afraid I do not exactly understand." 

" For so clever a young fellow you have 
become suddenly rather stupid. Indeed, I 
am inclined to believe you are somewhat 
stupid — you ought to have bargained for your 
price beforehand." 

" I have no price." 

" Leave your reward to our generosity — 
eh ? Surely that was scarcely wise ?" 

*' I want no reward," 

" You mean to tell me you have taken all 
this extraordinary amount of trouble out of 
pure consideration for, and a friendly feeling 
towards, our firm .^" 

" I do not mean to tell you anything of the 
kind," retorted Frank. " If Mr. Jeffley had 
not chanced to be in your employment, Mr. 
Gregson might have gone on playing his 



THE INTERVIEW. 35 

double game for ever without let or hindrance 
from me." 

" You do not consider it your duty then to 
expose villainy ?" 

" Indeed I do not. I have something else 
to think of than stripping the masks off rogues 
I meet every day of my life. Further, Mr. 
Fulmer, if you will forgive a young man poor 
as I am speaking so bluntly to a man rich as 
you are — I have a notion that great firms 
ought to be able to find out for themselves 
whether they are being cheated without any 
help or private information from out- 
siders." 

" Frank, I never thought you would let 
your tongue run away with you," remonstrated 
Mr. Jeffley. 

"If I have said anything to offend Mr. 
Fulmer, I beg to apologize," answered the 
young man. " What I did, I did for you, 
and you only. Perhaps I had better have 
held my peace and let Mr. Gregson run to 
the end of his tether. However, that can't 
be helped now." 

" You are a very hot-tempered young 

22 — 2 



36 MITRE COURT. 



man," remarked Mr, Fulmer, with an in- 
dulgent smile. 

" Perhaps you are right,'" answered Frank, 
" though no one ever accused me of being so 
before this evening." 

" I assure you, sir, that is quite true," 
pleaded Mr. Jeffley ; "long as I have known 
Scott, he has never in my presence lost his 
self-control till now." 

" Which only shows how true it is, we may 
live with a person for years and have no idea 
of his real character," said Mr. Fulmer 
enigmatically. 

" Having heard what I did hear," observed 
Mr. Jeffley, reverting to the original question, 
" I thought it only my duty to come straight 
away to you, sir." 

" That I quite understand," answered Mr. 
Fulmer. " What I do not understand, how- 
ever, is why your friend here considered it 
his duty to stir in the matter." 

"As I have said before, no feeling of duty 
entered into the question," retorted Frank. 
" Mr. Jeffley has shown kindness to me ever 
since I first saw him, and I thought — errone- 



THE INTERVIEW. 37 

ously it seems — that, as a matter of common 
gratitude, I ought to let him know there was 
an unprincipled scoundrel in the same employ- 
ment as himself." 

"You have done no harm by your inter- 
ference as yet," remarked Mr. Fulmer, with 
calm tolerance. "If you can manage to say 
nothing more, you may perhaps do good." 

"You may rest satisfied I shall meddle no 
further in the matter," said Frank, with con- 
viction. 

He had risen some time previously in 
order to deliver his sentiments with greater 
effect, and as the conversation proceeded, 
Mr, Jeffley had risen likewise in order to keep 
him company. 

"If you had not so explicitly stated you 
were only desirous of serving Mr. Jeffley," 
observed Mr. Fulmer, also rising as if to end 
the interview, " I would thank you for your 
well-meant warning." 

"No need to thank me," muttered the 
young man, moving towards the door. 

"Good-night," said j\Ir. Fulmer civilly; "I 
am afraid you have given yourself a vast 



38 MITRE COURT. 



amount of trouble. Good-night, Mr. Jeffley. 
I shall see you in the morning." 

" I hope to the Lord," thought Jack as he 
strode along Piccadilly, experiencing some 
difficulty in keeping pace with Frank's im- 
patient steps, " he has not it in his mind to 
give inc notice. I should scarce feel a bit 
surprised ; and Mr. Deedes ill too, and Mr. 
Tunstall trying to break his neck in Switzer- 
land. Do you know," he said, not angrily 
or nastily, because that was not Jack's way, 
but with a sort of mild expostulation, " I 
cannot see why we should walk so ve7'y fast, 

even though Mr. Fulmer did chance to rile 

■>■> 
you. 

" Oh ! I am not riled," answered Frank, 
slackening his pace, however ; '' still, he is a 
beast." 

" Come, come, gently now," said Mr. 
Jeffley, as though soothing a restive horse. 
" Mr. Fulmer is not half a bad fellow, if you 
know how to take him. Every man has his 
own ways, and people like ourselves have to 
put up with them. I found it hard at first to 
remember my right place ; but bless you, 



THE INTERVIEW. 39 

that's nothing to fret about when you get 
used to it. I suppose you did not give the 
matter a thought, but first or last you never 
once said * sir ' to him." 

"Who is he that I should 'sir' him?" 
asked Frank hotly. " He is not my master." 

" He is mine, though," answered Jack. 

" If I have done you any harm with him," 
exclaimed the young man, instantly penitent, 
" I am sorry ; but he did provoke me. From 
the first he looked and spoke as if we were 
both dirt under his feet ; and then to ask me 
what I expected for trying to do his firm a 
good turn. Confound him !" 

" I hope you feel better now," suggested 
Mr. Jeffley. 

" I only wish," went on Frank, " I had 
never opened my lips about the matter." 

"So don't I," returned his friend. "It 
was right for my people to know what is 
going on. Whatever happens, 1 shall be 
glad to think you told them. It is off our 
shoulders now. Come, cheer up !" 

It was impossible to resist Mr. Jeffley's 
honest face and hearty manner, and after a 



40 MITRE COURT. 



little Frank did try to cheer up and strive to 
master his irritation. Notwithstanding his 
best efforts, however, he carried a somewhat 
gloomy face back with him to Fowkes' 
Buildings ; while Jack, over whom the idea 
of losing his post loomed darkly, played so 
indifferent a part at supper that Mrs. Jeffley 
exclaimed in hot indignation : 

" I wonder what has come to all you 
men to-night. There's Mr. Katzen taken 
himself off to bed in a tantrum about some- 
thing or other, and now here you come in 
looking as pleasant as if you had found 
sixpence and lost a shilling." 

" You must not be cross with me, wifey, if 
I am not very bright," answered Jack, getting 
up and stroking the divine Maria's still 
abundant hair. "We have walked rather 
too far, and I feel done up a trifle — that's 
all." 

"And enough too," remarked Mrs. Jeffley, 
" when it makes you look as if everybody 
belonging to you was dead and buried." 

" I ought not to have persisted in walking 
back," said Frank. " It is all my fault, Mrs. 



THE INTERVIEW. 41 

Jeffley ; and I am now so tired myself I think 
the best thing I can do is to follow Mr. 
Katzen's example and go to bed." 

"And I'll do the same thing," declared Mr. 
JefHey, adding softly as he and Frank passed 
up the stairs together, " I wonder what has 
put Katzen out ?" 

Miss Abigail's lover, had he chosen, could 
have hazarded a guess on the subject. 

In no worse temper perhaps had Mr. 
Katzen ever returned to the Jeffley mansion. 
Abigail contrived to give him the slip in 
Great Tower Street, but calling subsequently 
in Botolph Lane, he secured the doubtful 
advantage of half an hour's tete-a-tete with 
his lady-love. 

He found her not in the least changed for 
the better. She flouted, derided, tormented 
him. Of her own accord she said she had 
met with a gentleman who was going to 
teach her the organ. 

" Young or old ?" questioned Mr. Katzen. 

"Young, of course," she replied, "but a 
great musician. He studied in Germany, 
and is steeped in harmony up to his very ears." 



42 MITRE COURT. 



" I suppose that is why you are learning 
German," Mr. Katzen observed. 

" Perhaps," she answered, without ex- 
pressing surprise at his knowledge. 

'' So as to be able to talk with him in that 
language ?" 

"Yes — and unless you are present, no one 
will know what we are saying. We can say 
anything we like then." 

"It seems to me you make no scruple 
about saying anything you like in English." 

" Oh ! I don't know — a foreign tongue 
seems to give one such freedom." 

"Well, I wish you joy of your freedom 
with your new friend— or shall I say lover Y' 

" You can say which you like." Not 
exactly an agreeable permission. 

Mrs. Jeffley was quite right — something 
had "come to" her mankind that evening. 

Jack tossed and tumbled through the hours 
which should have been devoted to sleep, 
dreading the interview indicated by Mr, 
Fulmer as impending, yet heartily wishing it 
over. 

About noon next day that gentleman made 



THE INTERVIEW. 43 

his appearance at the vaults, ostensibly to 
issue directions concerning some wine lying 
in bond, but really to remark to Mr. Jeffley : 

"It will be as well to say nothing about 
the matter we were speaking of last night. 
Your irascible young friend may be mistaken, 
or he may have exaggerated matters a little. 
In any case I wish no notice taken of the 
affair. You understand me ?" 

Jack did not in the least, though he 
answered *' Perfectly, sir." 

"And if you see your friend you might 
give him a hint." 

"He won't need one, sir; but I will tell 
him what you say." 

" Thank you, Jeffley. Things are very 
quiet." 

" Very quiet indeed, sir ; but they are 
always quiet at this time of the year." 





CHAPTER III, 



MR, GREGSON. 




I AVE that Mr. Fulmer — who had 
never previously been in the habit 
of visiting those dim vaults where so 
niuch wealth was placed under the hand of 
Mrs. Jeffley's husband — suddenly seemed to 
have taken a fancy for intruding at strange 
and unexpected hours on a territory Jack felt 
to be almost a possession of his own, things 
— after that interview in Hamilton Place — 
went on much as they had done before Frank 
and his friend wended their way westward. 

So far as Mr. Gregson was concerned, Jack 
decided, no warning might ever have been 
uttered. 

" I knew how it would be,'"' he thought. 



MR. GREGSON. 45 



" Still, as the young chap thought he saw 
smoke, I suppose it was right for him to 
shout ' Fire !' It appears there was no fire 
after all ; still, there might have been. All 
the same, I wish he had held his tono^ue. 
It's not over-pleasant, after so many years of 
honest hard service, to find a master taking- it 
into his head to suspect me of not being quite 
on the square — and that's what all these 
' lookings-in ' mean, or I'm much mistaken. 
However, I'll say nothing concerning them to 
Scott — it would only hurt the poor lad more ; 
and he meant well, though he did rub Mr. 
Fulmer's fur up a bit the wrong way." 

'' Do you tell me your people are actually 
keeping on that thief?" asked Frank one 
Sunday evening when he and Mr. Jefiiey 
were returning from their usual afternoon's 
outing. 

" Well, that's what they seem to be doing," 
confessed Jack, with mournful reluctance. 

" I could not have believed it possible," 
commented Frank. 

For a few yards Mr. Jeffiey walked on in 
silence. He was a large man, and his 



46 MITRE COURT. 



thoughts moved slowly, like the pendulum of 
a big clock. 

At last he spoke : 

" If I saw a sfreat hulkinof fellow thrash- 
ing his wife, I'd interfere ; but I'd be a fool, 
for they would both set on me. It is just the 
same thinof meddling- between master and 
man — the master does not thank you ; and 
the man, when he gets to know, which he 
always does somehow, hates you. Still, I 
suppose it's the right thing to speak. Even 
as this affair has turned out, I am not at heart 
sorry you did speak." 

" I am then," retorted Frank, " sorry 
enough for both of us." 

" Tut, tut !" said peaceful Jack Jeffley ; 
" what worse are you off than you were 
before ?" 

He was careful not to say he felt somewhat 
worse off — that was Jack's way. He might 
not be extraordinarily clever — nay, as his 
wife averred, he might in some things have 
been considered stupid ; but in his faithful- 
ness, his integrity, his loyalty, his considera- 
tion for others, and his desire to avoid all 



MR. GREGSON. 47 



quarrels, he had on his own dull mental flint 
struck a diviner spark than mere talent. 

Could he have so chano-ed his nature as to 

o 

speak hardly about Mr. Fulmer, and bitterly 
concerning a rogue and a cheat being pre- 
ferred to himself, Frank had felt cruelly dis- 
appointed ; yet, inconsistently, no doubt, he 
could for the moment scarcely help wishing 
that even for his own sake Jack had " more 
fight." 

Personally, it never once entered into the 
young man's mind that the information im- 
parted — information procured at the cost of 
so much trouble — would or could benefit him- 
self ; but he had hoped to benefit his friend. 
In imagination (on the way up to Hamilton 
Place) he heard Mr. Jeffley thanked and 
complimented ; after a time promoted to a 
higher post, which involved likewise an 
increase of salary, easier hours, and a better 
standing. 

He was grateful to and jealous for honest, 
kindly Jack Jeffley, who could not have hurt 
a fly, or even Mr. Katzen. He had seen a 
way, as he thought, to help forward his friend, 



48 MITRE COURT. 



who was not likely to push himself forward — 
and behold ! his dream and his visions re- 
sulted in the snubbing and neglect of Virtue, 
and the toleration, not to say triumph, of 
Vice. 

It was very hard, and, though in the main 
amiable and generally meek and docile 
enough, Frank undoubtedly did feel his 
" angry passions rise " very often when he 
encountered Mr. Gregson in the City and at 
the West End, ay, even beside the counter of 
that very bank where Rothsattel and Co. kept 
their account, which young Scott knew, or at 
all events shrewdly suspected, was only floated 
on from day to day by clever " manipulation." 

Clean-shaven, rosy-faced, easy-going, well- 
dressed, plausible-mannered Mr. Gregson was 
not at all the sort of person who looked likely 
to be playing a double game. His bosom's 
lord apparently sat lightly enough upon its 
throne. No sword of Damocles seemed sus- 
pended over that round sleek head. He was 
as ready with his joke as in other days fire- 
eaters were with their pistol. If he found 
nothing to speak about but the weather, he 



MR. GREGSON. 49 



spoke of that with an oily laugh which somehow 
suggested the gurgling sound of rich wine in 
process of decanting. To the bank clerks, 
to the commissionaires, to the very police as 
he passed them, Mr. Gregson always found 
something cheery to say. " He was such a 
pleasant gentleman," everyone declared in 
chorus. Frank grew to hate him, and tried 
to make Mr. Jeffley hate him too ; but Jack 
declared that to be impossible. Mr. Gregson 
— though " inclined to be a bit stiffish and 
stand off" ever since one day, a long time 
ago, when Mr. Jeffley refused to deliver an 
order " unless it came to him through the 
regular course " — had done him no harm ; 
" and even if he had," finished Jack, " I 
would try to bear no malice." 

Latterly, as his friend noticed, young Scott 
had become a little embittered. He had 
much to say about rich rogues, and men who 
by rights ought to be standing in the dock, 
driving about in carriages and pairs, about 
genius plodding along in bad boots, and the 
unequal battle brains must perforce wage 
when fighting against a banker's balance ; 

VOL. II. 23 



50 MITRE COURT. 



but to all this Mrs. Jeffley's husband paid 
small heed. 

"If it's any comfort to you, go ahead," he 
was wont to say. " Bless you, I've heard so 
much of this sort of thing, it seems quite 
natural. I thought you were holding your 
nose to the grindstone too patiently for it to 
last ; we all make a noise and to-do at first, 
or at any rate it's best for us to try to kick 
over the traces before we've been long in 
harness — we work off our high spirits that 
way, and then settle down quietly enough. 
No doubt it appears hard lines, after having 
enjoyed our liberty, to feel the gall of the 
collar and the jerk of the bit, and that cursed 
bearing-rein, another man's will, constantly 
pulling us up, to say nothing of the constant 
lash, lash, of necessity ; but we get used to it 
all after a while. If we don't, it's the worse 
for us." 

Jack's words were wise enough, and the 
younger m.an knew it. Nevertheless, he felt 
that his load was more than doubled by the 
spectacle of Mr. Gregson still keeping his 
appointment in Deedes' house, and at one 



MR. GREG SON. 51 



and the same time selling Deedes' wine and 
the firm that paid his salary. 

" There is not much encouragement in 
London for a man to be honest," he thought 
bitterly each time he encountered Mr. Greg- 
son, so jovial, healthy, prosperous, and 
joyous. 

Had he been able to look into Mr. 
Gregson's heart, however, his opinion would 
scarcely have remained the same. Even in 
that apparently stout and sunny residence 
Care had found a chamber quite to her mind. 
At first Mr. Gregson was scarcely aware of 
her contiguity, but after a short time he got 
to be as much afraid of that room hidden 
from the world as a child is of a dark 
closet. 

Up to a certain point the plans of Messrs. 
Rothsattel and Co. had prospered exceed- 
ingly ; not a hitch occurred. The play went 
on with perfect smoothness — each actor did 
what he ought to have done, said what he 
ought to say, and retired at the right moment; 
the curtain rose, and the curtain fell, without 
misadventure; the set scenes looked like 

23—2 



52 MITRE COURT. 



reality, and the few necessary changes were 
effected under the very noses of those most 
interested in the matter, without a suspicion 
being aroused as to the bond fides of the 
performance. 

Deedes had perfect confidence in their 
manager. They accepted his word as though 
it were Gospel. They allowed him to 
manipulate the customers. If he advised 
longer credit, then longer credit was given. 
If he said, " I think I should draw in a little 
here," a negligent or shaky debtor was soon 
made to feel Deedes, Tunstall, Fulmer and 
Co. existed in the flesh, and could sign letters 
far from agreeable. 

This was a sort of thing which had gone 
on for years, and which might have gone on 
for many more, had Mr. Gregson's private 
expenditure continued to keep step with his 
salary ; but it did not. 

By some means, he got into the " swing " 
of a very lavish and showy set of people. 
He began to supplement the dinners given 
for the benefit of his firm with dinners he 
imagined might advance the social position 



MR. GREGSON. 53 



of his family. He had daughters growing 
up ; he had a son at college ; he had other 
sons at school. Either the wine-trade had 
grown worse — for in addition to his salary he 
received a commission — or Mr. Gregson's 
ideas had expanded. However that might 
be, the end of each year found his exchequer 
in a less satisfactory state than it had been at 
the beginning, and, like other great political 
and City financiers, Mr. Gregson found it 
necessary to frame a new budget. 

He did not dream of retrenchment. The 
merchant or Chancellor who does that may 
certainly be honest, but he is generally 
regarded at best as a fool. 

" When in doubt, play trumps," whispered 
Mr. Gregson, a devoted whist-player, to 
himself; and acting on this time-honoured 
piece of advice, he went on throwing out 
trumps till he had not a good card left in his 
hand. 

In all branches of commerce a game is 
constantly being played in London and else- 
where, which immensely resembles the piecing 
of a child's puzzle. Given that the plan is 



54 MITRE COURT. 



put together as Intended, all goes well. 
Given, on the other hand, that one part is 
either missing or misplaced, and everything 
turns out wrong. 

Up to a certain point all goes well, perhaps 
too well. To-day's discount pays the accept- 
ance due to-morrow ; the goods purchased 
on credit this week and sold at a percentage 
off for cash almost before delivery, suffice to 
pay rent or rates, or some other most press- 
ing emergency. 

Living from "hand to mouth" is actual 
affluence in comparison, because at least in 
that case what the hand fails to find the 
mouth has to make shift to do without ; but 
the claims of landlords, tax-gatherers, and 
Victoria by the grace of God, must be satis- 
fied, let what back may go bare, let any 
number of stomachs stay empty. 

Frequently during the course of that 
September, when Mr. Deedes still lay very 
ill and Mr. Tunstall remained in Switzerland, 
their trusty manager found himself consider- 
ing as a not wholly remote contingency, the 
likelihood of receiving the most imperative 



7/^. GREGSON. 55 



Invitation save one, which Victoria, etc., ever 
sends forth to her Hege subjects. 

Often matters grew very unpleasant indeed. 
Lawyers' letters, unless they contain tidings 
of a legacy, are rarely agreeable, and Mr. 
Gregson received more than he cared for of 
these missives. 

For things had suddenly, and to his mind 
unaccountably, grown "difficult." Just as he 
had occasionally left Forest Hill bathed in 
morning sunshine, and found at New Cross 
a yellow, depressing, filthy fog patiently 
waiting for his train, so he seemed at once 
to plunge from a dry and pleasant land of 
safety into a sea of harass, among the shoals 
and rocks of which it almost baffled him to 
steer. 

Aforetime, money in the City had been 
tight, far " tighter " than it was at that pre- 
cise time, yet then he never experienced any 
trouble in getting enough and to spare. 

Now, however, had national insolvency 
been imminent, he could scarce have met 
with greater trouble in procuring loans, 
advances, discount. 



56 MITRE COURT. 



And what added yet another drop of bitter 
to his cup, was that when he repaired with 
his lack of success and heart full of bitter- 
ness to St. Dunstan's Hill, he generally- 
found Mr. Fulmer there representing the 
firm. 

As a member, and no contemptible member 
of the firm, Mr. Fulmer certainly had a right 
so to represent it, but Mr. Gregson did not 
feel quite comfortable with that gentleman, 
who had always held him a little at arm's 
length. Mr. Deedes now .... Ah, Mr. 
Gregson was wont to discourse largely over 
the pleasure anyone might take in working 
for such a "thorough old gentleman." Mr. 
Tunstall, too, was " not at all a bad fellow" — 
"fond of yachting, cricketing, rowing — any- 
thing, bless you, but the shop ; though, as for 
that, Fulmer only cares for the result of the 
half year's balance-sheet — never troubles his 
head about how the business is made to pay, 
so long as it does pay." 

It was for this reason probably that Mr. 
Fulmer's presence now seemed most dis- 
agreeable. Mr. Fulmer had not hitherto 



MR. GREGSON. 57 



been in the habit of putting in frequent 
appearances at the office ; and when he did, 
it was not " in any nasty, petty, meddling 
spirit, but merely to speak to Mr. Deedes, 
or exchange civilities with Mr. Tunstall." 
Now, however, of course matters were some- 
what different — Mr. Deedes being ill and 
Mr. Tunstall absent, no doubt he fancied he 
might be doing some good, though he only 
glanced over letters and read the Times. 
Mr, Gregson waxed merry as he described 
his principal's method of transacting business 
to some of those astute friends who " knew 
what was what," but in his heart he did not 
like this new departure. 

" He's such a big fellow, he seems to 
absorb all the air in our small place," he 
remarked to Mr. Gustave Rothsattel, 

Now Mr. Gregson, being by no means a 
small man himself, was scarcely justified in 
finding fault with Mr. Fulmer's still greater 
dimensions ; but the old sense of calm and 
freedom seemed disturbed by this partner's 
presence. 

" Like going home for a quiet evening, by 



S8 MITRE COURT. 



gad ! and finding some bore sitting in your 
favourite arm-chair," thought Mr. Gregson. 
Harassed and perplexed as he generally was 
about that time, the absolute repose of Mr. 
Fulmer's speech and manner chafed upon his 
already ruffled spirit. 

"Just as though, because he is not bothered, 
no one else in the world could be troubled 
over anything." 

Yes, it must have been trying. Dis- 
tracted about money and debt and bills and 
bankers, he found it hard to reply with 
polished ease to Mr. Fulmer's condescending 
platitudes on the subject of the weather, and 
Mr. Deedes' health, and the political look- 
out. 

Meanwhile, so far as the business of the 
firm went, Mr. Gregson was apparently 
having matters all his own way. If as cold 
as ever, Mr. Fulmer was at least as civil. 
He did not grumble, or complain, or inter- 
fere. He continued to glance at the letters, 
and to read his Times, while Mr. Gregson 
was doing very little for the firm, but financing 
largely for himself. 



MR. GREGSON. 59 



Still confident in his own position, Mr. 
Gregson indeed had not the faintest anticipa- 
tion of a check from his principals, when 
one morning he received an answer which 
surprised him. 

A bill of Rothsattels' had been maturing 
durinof those weeks when Mr. Fulmer was 
reading the Times ; indeed, with that baleful 
haste to ripen which seems to be in the very- 
constitution of bills, it was almost due. After 
it ran off, if it ever, that is to say, had the 
smallest intention of doing anything of the 
sort, Mr. Gregson knew another acceptance 
would be swiftly following in its footsteps. 

For a moment he never doubted but that 
the matter could be "arranged" as usual. 

Rothsattels wrote to Deedes and Co. a letter 
asking that the progress of the winged paper 
might be delayed by a " renewal ;" they gave 
plausible reasons for their request, and Mr. 
Gregson followed suit by recommending that 
their prayer should be granted. 

" Splendid business they are working up," 
he added; "they will be at the top of the 
tree in their own particular line before the 



6o MITRE COURT. 



winter is over ; hard-working, sharp, honest 
fellows as any in London — safe as the Bank." 

" Still I do not think we will renew," said 
Mr. Fulmer. The words were very few and 
very simple, yet they struck Mr. Gregson 
most unpleasantly. 

" You do not know these people, sir," he 
remonstrated after a second's pause. "Mr. 
Deedes, if he were here, would say 'yes' at 
once." 

" Perhaps he might," agreed Mr. Fulmer. 
" But then you see Mr. Deedes is not here, 
and I am." 

Really Mr. Fulmer could be a very dis- 
agreeable person when he chose. 

" Of course, sir — of course you are the best 
judge," returned Mr. Gregson. "Only I 
hope you will not be offended with me for 
pointing out that Rothsattels are very good 
customers, and " 

"If we lose them I shall acquit you of all 
responsibility," interrupted Mr. Fulmer. 

" Thank you, sir, that is all I want ; but 
we shan't lose them if any effort of mine can 
prevent their going elsewhere," and Mr. 



2IR. GREGSON. 6r 



Gregson walked out of the presence-chamber 
to make the best of a bad position. 

" Has he been looking at the books ?" he 
asked the cashier, who was an old man 
regular as clockwork, and precise in his 
habits as Charles Lamb's "good clerk." 

" Yes," was the answer. Mr. Gregson 
had indicated the /ic meant by a backward 
movement of his right thumb over his left 
shoulder. 

" Say anything ?" further inquired the 
manager. 

" Not to me," replied the cashier, as, with 
the calm of a clear conscience void of reproach, 
he ruled two red-ink lines and blotted them off. 

Rothsattels' acceptance had still about ten 
days to run when the head of that firm in 
person called at Messrs. Deedes' offices and 
rejoiced Mr. Gregson's heart by giving a 
"splendid" order. Purposely, perhaps, he 
selected an hour for his visit when Mr. 
Fulmer was rarely in evidence ; but he and 
Mr. Gregson had a comfortable chat in the 
outer office, where anyone who liked could 
hear what they were talking about, and where 



62 MITRE COURT. 



the cashier, still making entries in black ink 
and ruling red lines at the bottom of columns, 
was indirectly told what a large business 
Rothsattels' were doing — how that enter- 
prising firm meant to take London by storm, 
and teach all who had gone before them the 
way to cater for the people. 

"You shall see," said Mr. Rothsattel, in 
his ponderously deliberate German-English, 
with just the faintest pause between his 
words, merely sufficient to emphasize them. 
" You shall see." 

As no one present except Mr. Gregson 
knew anything about that trifling request for 
renewal, the cashier, though so busy among 
his figures, may have been impressed by the 
statements thrown out in his hearing ; but he 
did not repeat them to Mr. Fulmer, as 
perhaps Mr, Gregson half expected. 

It would, indeed, as soon have entered into 
the mind of Messrs. Deedes' cashier to take 
a stroll up to Buckingham Palace, when the 
Oueen chanced to be in residence, and suofofest 
a friendly call on her Majesty, as to in- 
augurate a conversation with Mr. Fulmer. 



MR. GREGSON. 63 



To Mr. Deedes he had been known 
deferentially to remark that the prevalence of 
many rains, or the long continuance of 
drought, might prove disastrous to farmers — 
a class of whom he knew about as much as 
of the lost tribes ; but then Mr. Deedes was 
an old gentleman of a former day, and 
possessed of different ideas and manners 
from his partner. Mr. Deedes lived at 
Eltham, in what the cashier described as a 
baronial hall ; but, upon the other hand, Mr. 
Fulmer resided in a "palatial mansion" close 
to Hyde Park, in the very centre of fashion, 
amid the highest and noblest members of the 
aristocracy. His mother by right of birth 
was one of that charmed circle. 

Her name often appeared in the Court 
Joztrnal, and in the scarcely less select 
columns of the Mornino- Post. Of his own 
knowledge the cashier could not have sworn 
to this fact. But he owned for friend a most 
superior person, the widow of a major, who 
felt it incumbent upon her to do what she 
called, "keep up her acquaintance with the 
upper ten." 



64 MITRE COURT. 



She did this, as many other people are 
wont to do, by following their movements 
from country to town, and from town to the 
Continent ; and she was wont to entertain her 
visitors with such remarks as : 

"■ So the Duchess of Haut-ton has another 
dear little boy ;" or, " Of course you have 
heard that the Marquis of Honi-soit-qui- 
mal-y-pense is shortly to be married. He is 
so handsome !" 

To the unregenerate this sort of conversa- 
tion is generally more provocative of merri- 
ment than productive in the way of instruction, 
but it never wearied the little precise old 
man, who thought the dinners at Holland 
House could scarcely have been more 
brilliant than those delightful evenings at 
Denmark Hill when Mrs. "Major" Fitz- 
william " received." 

She always made a point of being very 
gracious to the meek little cashier, keeping 
him near her, and saying in an audible 
aside : 

"You did not tell me Lady Adela had 
left town;" or, "Is it true her ladyship 



MR. GREGSON. 65 

means to winter at Nice ?" or, " Has her 
son gone with her to High Park? — all the 
world knows what a favourite he is of the old 
Earl, his grandfather." 

After hearing Mr. Fulmer continually 
spoken of in such a connection, was it likely 
little Mr. Mott would venture to intrude 
upon his principal's notice the vulgar details 
of Mr. Rothsattel's eating-houses? — what 
were " fittings " and chops, decorations and 
jugged hare, cornices and Irish stew, to the 
mind of a man who rode in the Park, and 
could handle the ribbons of a spanking set 
of four bays as well as any one of the crack 
whips ! 

" Governor inside ?" asked Mr. Gregson, 
when, on the day that Mr. Rothsattel called, 
he returned from some afternoon expedition 
of his own. 

Shocked by such familiarity, Mr. Mott 
merely inclined his head in grave acquiescence, 
but the action sufficed. Mr. Gregson walked 
straight into the presence-chamber. 

"Well, sir," he began, rubbing his hands 
and smiling all over his face, " you will be 

VOL. II. 24 



66 MITRE COURT. 



o;lad to hear Rothsattels have q-iven us a 
capital order — capital." 

" Oh," commented Mr. Fulmer. He never 
said he was glad, or sorry, or anything. 

" They are thorough good fellows," pro- 
ceeded Mr. Gregson. " I thought they 
would understand the position. They have 
taken no offence — none whatever." 

" I did not imagine they would withdraw 
their custom," observed Mr. Fulmer ; and 
then, as if the whole Rothsattel question w^ere 
absolutely indifferent to him, resumed a 
letter he had been engaged in writing when 
interrupted to hear the good news. 

Mr. Gregson opened his mouth as if to 
say something further, but seeing that Mr. 
Fulmer had apparently forgotten his presence, 
closed it aofain and retired. 

When he shut the door he smiled, and 
sagely wagged his head. Perhaps he was 
mentally shaking hands with himself, while 
considering what a simple fleecy sheep 
Heaven had sent him to shear in the person 
of Lady Adela Fulmer's son. 

It was no part of Mr. Mott's duty to take 



MR. GREGSON. 67 



official notice of Messrs. Rothsattels' capital 
order till it had been executed. The routine 
in Deedes' was for all orders to Qfo throuQfh 
what was called the usual course. After they 
had done that, and were returned from Mr. 
Jeffley's department as duly executed, then 
the cashier worked his sweet will upon the 
writing and figures, transferring both by the 
aid of his fair copper-plate hand to two 
immense tomes, labelled respectively, Journal 
and Ledger. 

Days passed, and the order appeared in 
neither. Mr. Mott did not trouble himself 
about the delay in Mr. Jeffley's department ; 
Indeed, the whole matter had escaped his 
recollection, when one morning Mr. Roth- 
sattel appeared, this time during the absence 
of the manager. 

He wanted to see one of the principals — 
for example, Mr. Deedes. 

In default of Mr. Deedes he saw Mr. 
Fulmer, to whom he explained he had called 
to complain about the immense Inconvenience 
he was experiencing owing to the non- 
delivery of a certain small order for wine he 

24 — 2 



68 MITRE COURT. 



had given to Messrs. Deedes' manager, Mr. 
Gregson. 

"Yes," said Mr. Fulmer. 

Mr. Rothsattel chose to take the word as 
a question, for he proceeded to enter upon 
still larger details, and to state at even 
ereater leneth the loss and ruin such want 
of punctuality entailed upon establishments 
where "sharp" was the cry of one and all. 
" To a huge firm it may seem a small matter 
to keep our customers waiting," he finished, 
" but to us, who to live have to please the 
public, it is no fun," 

" I can quite believe the delay has been no 
fun to you," said Mr. Fulmer. 

" You are right ; and you will see — you 
will give your orders — that we have the wine 
at once. I know accidents do occur, and a 
great house cannot always count upon the 
carefulness of all the little men it employs. 
It shall be now that we wait not any 
longer." 

" Well, no, Mr. Rothsattel," answered Mr. 
Fulmer ; " I can scarcely promise to deliver 
your order immediately : you and your 



MR. GREGSON. 



customers will have to wait for some time 
longer still." 

" How — how is that ?" asked the other. 
" Have you not what we require in stock ? 
What a pity — what a misfortune! If Mr. 
Gregson had only mentioned, we might have 
otherwise arranged." 

" I have no doubt ; but the delay has 
not arisen from any lack of the wine you 
require — we have plenty in our cellars hard 
by. The fact is — Mr. Rothsattel, do you 
want to know what the fact is ?" 

"You may rest assured I do. For what 
else am I here ? What other reason could I 
have for leaving my business ?" 

" That is not for me to surmise," answered 
Mr. Fulmer, modestly rejecting the posses- 
sion of such extraordinary powers of divi- 
nation as were suggested by Mr. Rothsattel's 
inquiry. " All I do certainly know is, that 
as you now owe us a large sum of money, we 
feel it better, for the present at all events, 
not to increase our risk." 

- How ?" 

"In other words, Mr. Rothsattel, for the 



70 MITRE COURT. 

sake of a small profit we do not feel disposed 
to run the chance of losing any more money 
than we stand to lose at present." 

"To lose! I fail to understand. I am 
sorry to be stupid." 

"I do not fancy you are so stupid as to 
fail to comprehend that we decline to execute 
your order." 

" Why, what have I done — what has 
Rothsattel and Co. done — for their orders to 
be refused? If you want references — if you 
have a desire for information " 

" If I had wanted anything, Mr. Rothsattel, 
I should have asked you for it," interrupted 
Mr. Fulmer. " I want nothing, however, 
except to see your acceptances duly met." 

" But I want something^ — and I will have 
it !" exclaimed Mr, Gregson's good customer. 
" I must know why you take an order, and 
then refuse to honour it — why you keep me 
waiting, waiting, expecting, and then say, ' I 
never meant to send.'" 

" Your own sense will no doubt answer 
your own questions," said Mr. Fulmer, " even 
better than I could." 



MR. GREGSON. 71 



" My own sense tells me a very good 
action might lie against you for breach of 
contract/' retorted Mr. Rothsattel, in choked, 
blustering gutturals which he tried hard to 
render effectively defiant. " We shall see if 
people, no matter how big they are, and 
great they think themselves, are to ruin 
small men striving hard to make an honest 
living." 

" We shall," agreed Mr. Fulmer calmly. 

" I fail to imagine what your good partner 
will say to all this shuffling and double-deal- 
ing when the time comes that he is well 
enough to hear what has been going on while 
he lay so ill." 

"/ can imagine," said Mr. Fulmer, with 
unruffled composure. 

For a moment there ensued a dead silence. 
Mr. Fulmer looked straight at Mr. Rothsattel, 
and Mr. Rothsattel strove to look indifferently 
at Mr. Fulmer. 

" I suppose you have nothing more to 
say," at length suggested the latter. 

" Do you mean you are not going to 
deliver that wine ?" asked Mr, Rothsattel, in 



72 MITRE COURT. 

a tragic crescendo. " Come, Mr. Fulmer — 
confess you have been playing with us a small 
practical joke." 

" A joke — certainly not. Do you suppose 
that respectable English merchants would 
condescend to joke in matters of business ?" 

" I did not know. It is all so new to me. 
Perhaps you have been suffering from the 
spleen, the ennui. I was wrong to speak of 
joking. Now I have been here and told you 
all, you will give directions for our order to be 
attended to ?" 

'' No, Mr. Rothsattel, I will not." 

" Then why not ? Has there ever been 
anything wrong with us ? Have we not 
always paid that we undertook to pay T 

" Well, really — as you put the question so 
plainly — I am afraid I must answer ' No.'" 

" No ! Why no ? — wherein have we failed 
of our engagements ?" 

" I look back over your account — and I 
find that against a large indebtedness you 
have first and last paid the sum of seventy- 
four pounds odd." 

" That may be so — remark, I do not 



MR. GREG SON. 73 



accept your figures ; but supposing you are 
right, have we failed to meet our engage- 
ments ?" 

" Yes, I think so — because it is we who 
have met them hitherto. With what I con- 
sider a culpable carelessness or foolish con- 
fidence — pray select whichever phrase you 
prefer — we have taken your valueless paper 
as though each bill were a bank-note. Now, 
Mr. Rothsattel, I intend there to be an end 
of this." 

" An end of what — please explain ?" 

" Your wish shall be gratified — an accept- 
ance of yours is due next week. If it be not 
honoured, I shall at once take out a trading 
debtor's summons. As to what will follow 
after that, you had better consult some good 
solicitor — if you know one." 

" Had you not first best consult your firm, 
Misterr Fulmer ?" 

''For the time being I am the firm, Mr. Roth- 
sattel — and for all time hereafter as regards 
you I am Deedes and Co. It did not suit my 
convenience to tell you sooner I knew your 
business was a mere bubble. Perhaps now 



74 MITRE COURT. 



you will kindly leave me — all business trans- 
actions between us being ended T 

" Der Henker hole Sie !" muttered Mr. 
Rothsattel. 

" I wouldn't Invoke the hangman, were I 
you," said Mr. Fulmer. 

Mr. Rothsattel glared back at the wine 
merchant, whom he had never even suspected 
could be guilty of a knowledge of German. 

" Talk of the devil, you know !" added that 
gentleman cheerfully, as the customer took 
his leave. 

The days which that ominous bill had to 
run seemed to melt Into each other. They 
fled — they flew. From morning till night, 
Mr. Gregson spent himself trying to finance. 
He wore out his boots and his strength all 
for naught. No banker or discounter would 
touch Rothsattels' paper. At last he tried a 
document, which bore the legend, on Its re- 
verse side bien entend2i : 

" Deedes, Tunstall, Fulmer & Co. 
"per S. Gregson." 

"If you kindly leave this, Mr. Gregson, I 



MR. GREG SON. 75 



will consult my directors," said the manager 
to whom he submitted the document. " I 
shall be here at two o'clock." 

But Mr. Gregson elected not to leave It. 
He could not, he said, think of putting such 
an indignity on his employers as having 
their good name submitted to any director 
in England. 

"Just as you please, of course," said the 
manager, smiling ; and Mr. Gregson did not 
like his smile. 

" I can manage this," said Mr. Rothsattel, 
when the dififiiculty was referred to him. So 
pressed for time were the confederates, that 
a hansom was hailed and the German drove 
off to see a friend who had an office near 
Bishopsgate Street. 

"Where did you get this?" asked the 
gentleman in question, looking curiously at 
the document. He was a compatriot of the 
Rothsattels', and ceremony did not obtain 
between them. 

His visitor explained. 

" And why did you get it ?" 

Once again Mr. Rothsattel explained. 



76 MITRE COURT. 



" Out of my way altogether," said the 
astute individual who had been regarded as 
the last plank between King Street and de- 
struction. " I tell you the best thing you can 
do, though." 

" Yes ?" exclaimed Mr. Rothsattel eagerly. 

" I suppose you keep up a very good fire 
for grilling at some of your places ?" 

" What has that to do with the subject ?" 

" Nothing, except take my advice, and put 
this into the hottest part of the fire." 

" How ?" 

" Oh ! you know. I wouldn't keep a paper 
of the sort if I were you. I wouldn't really. 
It's fishy — it's far too fishy;" and the speaker 
held out the document between his thumb 
and first finger, as if it really had a stale and 
unpleasant smell. 

At length, but a few hours intervened before 
the dawning of that evil day which had once 
seemed so far off, so little to be dreaded. 

Had pity been a sentiment in which Mr. 
Fulmer ever indulged, even he might have 
felt sorry for the desperate man who saw 
nothing now before him but ruin and disgrace. 



MR. GREGSON. 77 



Ere another night came, Rothsattels' accept- 
ance would have been returned, and be in 
the hands of the notary. Had he not already- 
exhausted every resource, there was still time 
left in which to avert defeat ; but though he 
lay awake in the darkness racking his brain, 
he could think of no plan by which matters 
could be staved over even for a week. Me- 
chanically he dressed, caught his train, and 
proceeded to St. Dunstan's Hill. Mr. Ful- 
mer was there before him, and came out of 
his office just as the manager had again put 
on his hat with the intention of proceeding 
to Rothsattels'. 

When he saw Mr. Fulmer he took it off 
once more. 

" Come into my room for a moment," said 
Mr. Fulmer, dispensing with any ceremonious 
greeting. 

" Shut the door," he added, when Mr. 
Gregson obeyed ; then he went and took up 
a position in front of the fire, while the 
manager waited for what was to come next. 

''It may be," began Mr. Fulmer, " that I 
do not know so much about business as my 



78 MITRE COURT. 



partners "—Mr. Gregson breathed again — 
" but it seems to my inexperience that if a 
» firm have a manager, he ought to be some- 
times visible. Now, you very rarely are, 
Mr. Gregson." 

" If I have been occasionally absent, sir," 
said the manager in a tone so low and shaken, 
Mr, Fulmer could scarcely catch his words, " it 
has been in the interests of my employers." 

" On that subject 1 think the opinion of 
your employers should have been consulted." 

" If I have done wrong, sir, I have done 
wrong with Mr. Deedes' approval." 

"I imagineMr. Deedes never contemplated 
the duties of traveller and collector being 
combined in one person, and that person our 
manager. You do not seem very well, Mr. 
Gregson. Perhaps you have been over- 
working yourself and require a change." 

Mr, Gregson placed his hand on the rail 
of a chair to steady himself. He was white 
to his lips, 

" But for Mr, Deedes' illness, sir," he 
managed to jerk out, " I should have asked 
for leave ere this." 



MR. GREGSON. 79 



"You need notwait for Mr. Deedes' recovery 
before going away," interrupted Mr. Fulmer. 
" I dare say I can attend to the business — we 
do not seem very busy at present ; and as I 
intend for the future to take a very active 
part in the management, this will be a favour- 
able time to look into many affairs which 
seem to require attention. I should there- 
fore advise you to start at once. What do 
you say, Mr. Gregson T'' 

"If you are certain you can spare me, 

sir — I " but the end of the sentence died 

away, before the look in Mr. Fulmer's eyes, 
the curl of Mr. Fulmer's lip. "We can spare 
you," he said, " and if you take my advice 
you will go abroad." He added no further 
word, yet the manager understood that Mr. 
Fulmer knew everything — that for some 
reason the firm did not mean to prosecute 
him, and that he had better leave before 
Rothsattels' acceptance was dishonoured. 

" Thank you, sir," he answered, " I will." 

Passing from the inner to the outer office, 
he put on his hat for the last time, and with- 
out sign or salutation to anyone, left Deedes' 
for ever. 





CHAPTER IV. 

IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 

SUPPOSE he means, now he 
has begun, to make a clean sweep 
of us all," muttered Mr. Jeffley to 
himself, as he brought his face up dripping 
out of a great basin of water, into which he 
had plunged it in order to get in what he 
called " better trim" for an impending inter- 
view with Mr. Fulmer. ''Well, I've done 
nothing wrong." 

More than a month had come and gone 
since the day when Rothsattels' first bill was 
due. During that space of time many things 
had happened. The wine business in King 
Street was closed ; so were the various 
restaurants in which Mr. Rothsattel had 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 



proposed to give English publicans and 
sinners a lesson. Mr. Rothsattel was doing 
two things at a time — passing through the 
Bankruptcy Court, and, under a feigned 
name, opening a fresh establishment near the 
Minories. Mr. Gustave Rothsattel was open 
to an engagement as clerk. The other 
brother had accepted an offer to go to Cairo. 
In an unofficial way Mr. Jeffley came to 
know Mr. Gregson was taking a holiday, 
and that he would not return. Likewise 
unofficially he heard there had been some- 
thing wrong in the accounts at St. Dunstan's 
Hill. To Mr. Mott no information was 
vouchsafed ; but though little better than a 
machine, that gentleman could — to quote 
Jack — " spell and piece together a bit." 

A number of debts were written off by 
Mr. Fulmer's orders as paid, though Mr. 
Mott knew such payments had never been 
made to the firm ; and Jack shrewdly sus- 
pected many more might have been treated 
in like manner but for Frank Scott's word of 
timely warning. 

" There had been no open unpleasantness," 
VOL. II. 25 



82 MITRE COURT. 

Jack gathered from Mr. Mott, between 
Mr. Fulmer and Deedes' manager. On the 
very morning of his departure they had met 
" just as usual." " When Mr. Gregson caught 
poor Httle Manley stealing the stamps, any- 
one might have thought heaven and earth 
had crashed together," said the cashier plain- 
tively, screwing up his face in disagreeable 
memory of the vulgar noise. "It is just 
three years ago ; you remember, Mr. Jeffley, 
how a policeman was sent for, and the poor 
child, for he was but a child, and a weakly 
one, given in charge ? I shall not forget his 
mother's agony in a hurry — pretty woman, 
too," added that sad rogue Mr. Mott, with a 
simper, "young and a widow. Mr. Gregson 
was out, and I showed her into Mr. Deedes' 
office myself. For once I took so much upon 
me. Straightway she fell on her knees before 
Mr. Deedes. I would have retired, but he 
called to me : 

" * Heyday, Mott ! what's all this to do ?' 
and then I waited. 

" She cried and sobbed and wrunsf her 
hands, and Mr. Deedes could say nothing 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 83 

but ' My good soul — my poor soul — what is 
the matter ?' and he lifted her into his own 
arm-chair" (''God bless him !" interpolated 
Jack), "and made me pour her out a glass 
of port, and so at last somehow she told 
him. 

" He was very angry — very angry indeed ; 
when Mr. Gregson came back I may say he 
spoke very strongly about the matter. Mr. 
Gregson said he only meant to frighten the 
boy ; but he was given to understand boys 
were not again to be frightened in such 
fashion, more especially the sons of pretty 
and interesting widows. The lad and his 
mother are now both in America, helped 
there, I feel no doubt, by the excellent head 
of our firm. And Mr. Gregfson — he is — 
Heaven only knows where ; but I understand 
there are men in possession at Forest Hill. 
The house was mortgaged up to the hilt, and 
Mrs. Gregson has gone back to her relations 
— persons I should imagine in a humble 
sphere of life." 

It was the horrible silence, the utter 
absence of a " row " about the whole affair, 

25—2 



84 MITRE COURT. 

which shocked and impressed Jack Jeffley. 
There, " for a matter of three months," had 
Mr. Gregson been coming and going, "sus- 
pecting nothing," fearing no ill, and then in 
one second the bolt fell, and he was launched 
out on this world penniless, characterless, 
friendless ! Jack felt he did not like it at 
all. He pursued the parallel. 

There had he been, " early and late " — but 
that would " count for nothing " ; doing his 
best — but Mr. Fulmer mio^ht consider his 
best very bad indeed. He had put on no 
new manners for the benefit of Lady Adela's 
son — so that son might consider him "rough" 
and " unbefitting." All he knew for certain 
was that he had stolen nothing: — that in his 
reign nothing had been stolen except a bottle 
of sherry, for the robbery of which he cuffed 
a lad's ears and kicked him out of the place, 
making good the loss — as an accident — out 
of his own pocket. 

No ; on the score of character he could 
meet any number of enemies in the gate — 
still he did not like Deedes' recent way of 
getting on, and he disliked extremely that 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 85 

somewhat peremptory note from Mr. Fulmer, 
which said : 

" Mr. Jeffley, 

" Come round here at noon ; we wish 
to see you." 

Incontinently Jack stripped off his old coat, 
threw aside his waistcoat, unbuttoned his collar, 
threw back his shirt, and plunged his honest 
head deep into a pail of water. He came up 
dripping, as has already been said, and as he 
vigorously rubbed his face over with a towel 
— scarcely less roughly than though he had 
been a horse — he uttered that remark about 
the probabilities of getting marching orders 
which commences this chapter. 

Poor Jack ! — and he had not a halfpenny 
saved. Seeing his admirable wife "working 
her fingers to the bone," he had felt bound 
to cast the bulk of his salary into the common 
lot. 

For the remainder } Well, he always dined 
out, so as "not to trouble the missus." He 
found his own underlinen, and as the " missus" 



86 MITRE COURT. 



had no time to mend, the cost even of that 
proved a considerable item ; next, he had to 
pay his tailor — not much, perhaps, but still 
something. His Sunday visits cost a trifle 
beyond the expense of railway tickets, be- 
cause Jack was no niggard, and so — as he 
said to Frank — " there you are." 

Poor Jack Jeffley ! 

How many Jack Jeffleys, I wonder, are 
there in London, who, having done their 
day's work for thirty or forty years, take 
their day's wages, see it squandered by 
somebody else, and having spent a mere 
modicum on themselves, are annually buried 
by the parish ? 

A most sad and interesting inquiry — a 
statistic no political economist will ever 
obtain in this world. 

" I never was one to shift and chop about," 
continued poor Jack, in mournful soliloquy, 
still towelling himself with unmerciful vigour, 
" and if I have to leave it will go hard with 
me. However, I shall soon know the worst 
— that's one comfort." 

His idea that he would have to face some- 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 87 

thing bad was not unnatural. He had long 
anticipated what he called " changes " if, or 
rather when, Mr. Deedes either died or 
retired. Fresh blood would, he foresaw, be 
introduced, and as a rule fresh blood is no 
fonder of old servants than old servants are 
of new-comers. Then he could not under- 
stand Mr. Fulmer, and with Jack to be un- 
able to understand was to doubt. He felt 
that even had he been wrong in going to 
Hamilton Place, his good intentions should 
have won him some consideration. He did 
not like Mr. Fulmer's constant visits of in- 
spection. He felt he had no right to object 
to his employer entering his own vaults, and 
yet he did object. Further, the quiet way 
in which Mr. Gregson had been dealt with 
increased his uneasiness. Jack could as 
soon have lain in wait and stabbed a fellow- 
creature against whom he had a grudge, as 
talk civilly to a man meaning shortly to send 
him to the right-about face; and Mr. Jeffley 
unconsciously, but nevertheless very surely, 
was convinced anything he could not do 
must be wrong — in which respect perhaps he 



MITRE COURT. 



resembled many other worthy and unworthy 
people. 

" He can do no more than discharge 
me, anyhow," said Jack, slipping on his 
out-of-door coat and takingf a final o^lance at 
himself in the triangular bit of broken mirror 
which had served for dressing-glass to 
the establishment ever since he went to 
Deedes'. 

In London, a wholesomer, honester-looking 
face than Jack Jeffrey's could not have been 
met with, as, fresh from his cold " souse," he 
walked towards Dunstan's Hill, smothering a 
sigh the while he passed Fowkes' Buildings, 
and wondered what his " little woman would 
find to say once she heard he had got the 
sack." 

When he arrived at Deedes' there was no 
one in the outer office. Even Mr. Mott's 
stool stood empty. The whole place looked 
as though some one lay dead in it. Its 
aspect struck with a sense of emptiness on 
Jack's warm heart. For a moment he felt as 
if he had never been half fond enough of 
Deedes' in the gracious and happy past. 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 8c^ 

As he waited, Mr. Fulmer appeared. 

"Oh! it's you, is it?" he said. "Go 
inside," and with a motion of his hand he 
indicated a wish that Mr. Jeffley should pre- 
cede him. 

Jack screwed up his courage, and pushing 
open the door of the private room, entered. 
The moment he did so, however, the fashion 
of his face changed. A great burst of sun- 
shine seemed to stream across it. By the 
hearth, there sat in an easy-chair — the aspect 
of which was new to Jack — a familiar figure, 
Mr. Deedes — thin and pale indeed, but Mr. 
Deedes in the flesh, at least as much of it as 
illness had left. 

" I am so glad, sir — I am so glad to see 
you here again !" cried Jack in the joy and 
fulness of his soul. " You can't think, sir, how 
glad I am ! I hope you find yourself better^ 
sir." 

Mr. Deedes smiled. Ice itself must have 
thawed a little at the delight in Jack's tone, 
the fervour of Jack's manner. 

" Thank you," he said, " yes ;" and he 
stretched out his thin hand, which Jack took. 



•90 MITRE COURT. 



and held as if it were some very rare and 
fragile piece of china. 

Mr. Fulmer regarded the scene with pity- 
ing indulgence. It was not business, still 
certainly Mr. Deedes had been very ill, and 
he was an old man, so he let the pair have 
their little talk out before he said : 

" We asked you to step round to-day, Mr. 
Jeffley, because we want you to tell us if you 
think any man under you would be qualified 
to take your present place." 

For a moment Jack looked at his employer 
in blank and speechless astonishment. He 
had come prepared for dismissal, but this 
request to indicate a suitable successor fairly 
knocked him over. Dimly there recurred to 
him some memory of God having forbidden 
a lamb to be seethed in its mother's milk, but 
though he felt what the words meant, he 
<:ould not what he called " rightly phrase it " 
at such short notice, and remained absolutely 
mute and stricken. 

It is, I fancy, our utter want of comprehen- 
sion of the billows which may be tossing, and 
the floods which are surging through a soul — 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 91 

the struggles and mysteries whereof we pos- 
sess no sort of knowledge — that makes us so 
intolerant. 

" If we understood — if we could but under- 
stand," is at some time or other the anguished 
heart-cry of most of us, never pausing to reflect 
we should then be as God ! 

After all, when we have thought as much as 
we can — when we have reasoned as far as our 
faculties will let us, when we have hewn down 
trees which alone we thought intercepted our 
view, and broken, crushed and bleeding, through 
the thorns that barred our way — we come 
eventually to as sudden a stop as Death. 

To the strongest as to the weakest, at some 
point in the mental journey, our Tvlaker says : 
*' Thus far and no farther shalt thou come." 

There is no mockery in this, for God does 
not jest with His creatures; only stern re- 
pression in the Infinite inscrutable to our finite 
curiosity. 

We want to know all the ins and outs of the 
great Hereafter — to have the Land of Promise 
mapped out before us as though it were the 
land of modern Egypt ; we fancy we can wrest 



MITRE COURT. 



from science an idea of what we shall be when 
our limbs are still in death, and our hearts cold 
as winter's snow ! Pooh ! and we fail even to 
comprehend the hidden life of those we meet 
day after day — eat with, talk to, think of, 
love. 

The highest to our vanity does not seem too 
great a height to soar, and all the time our 
blinded and stumbling senses cannot even 
grasp the joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears of 
the meanest creature with whom we chance to 
be brought into contact. 

" Well ?" said Mr. Fulmer, breaking across 
the silence. He had not the faintest idea 
why Mr. Jeffley's answer tarried in the 
coming. If he could have imagined the 
long panorama of faithful service which 
passed before Jack's mind as he hesitated — 
the simple events, the stupid memories which, 
crowding in, confused his brain — he would 
only have felt amused. " Well, is there any- 
one you can recommend us .''" 

With an instinctive feeling that it was right 
to forget himself, that he must be loyal, come 
what would. Jack took his courage in his hand, 



IN DEEDES OFFICE. 93 

and without looking at Mr, Deedes, who he 
thought ought not to be " brought into it," 
remarked : 

" As you ask me, sir, I can but say what I 
beHeve. You have one man, and only one, 
fit to take charge " 

" And that man is " 

" Thomas Wilton." 

*' I suppose what you mean really to convey 
is, that after you there is only one competent 
man in our vaults." 

*' That is so, sir. I believe I am a fitter 
man than Wilton ; but you see, you've as 
good as told me I'm of no use any more." 

Mr. Fulmer looked at the speaker in amaze- 
ment, and then a smile slowly approached his 
lips and hovered about them, 

" He is laughing at me," thought poor Jack, 
""and I'd like to punch his head." 

Already it will be perceived he was ceasing 
to regard Mr. Fulmer as a master, and the 
natural feelings of himself as a mere man 
were acquiring importance. 

" Perhaps," interposed Mr, Deedes in his 
low cultured tone, to which his long illness 



94 MITRE COURT. 



had added a touch of gentle pathos, " we 
had better explain to Jeffley a little more 
clearly what we mean. He cannot exactly 
understand." 

" I am afraid I do, sir. But " 

" No, you don't," retorted Mr. Fulmer. 
** You know nothing about what we have in 
our minds. And so you can confidently re- 
commend Wilton for your own berth ?" 

" Yes, sir, I can, though it's hard — remem- 
ber, sir, I am making no complaint — it's your 
right, of course, to discharge and keep those 
you think fitting — still " 

*' Pray proceed, Mr. Jeffley," entreated 
Mr. Fulmer, his smile increasing in amuse- 
ment as Jack spoke. " Your original views 
interest me greatly." 

" Sit down, Jeffley," suggested Mr. Deedes, 
with a movement of his thin white hand. 
" And do not misunderstand us. Mr. Ful- 
mer is coming to the point presently." 

"Yes, Jeffley, sit down," added Mr. 
Fulmer. "What! won't you ? Oh ! just as 
you like !" and he actually laughed. 

Aforetime Jack desired to punch the head 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 9j 

of this partner in the firm he served, and now 
he felt he wanted to kick him — at last he was 
cordially at one with Frank Scott. 

"If Mr. Deedes bids me sit, sir, I'll 
sit," he answered, " but if not, I think I'd 
just as lief take what I've got to take 
standing," 

*' It is all a matter of taste, therefore as 
you please. And now to business. You are 
of course aware, Mr. Jefiley, that Mr. Greg- 
son has left us ?" 

"So I have heard, sir." 

" And, in consequence of his departure^ 
Mr. Deedes and I have decided to make some 
changes in the office." 

"Yes, sir." 

Jack's face was pale enough, and his lips 
white enough now. Well — it seemed like 
having a few hundred teeth out at one 
wrench ; but it would soon be over, he again 
told himself. 

" I may explain at once we are quite 
agreed as regards one point — we never 
intend any future manager to possess the 
power that was entrusted to Mr. Gregson." 



96 MITRE COURT. 



" I shouldn't think you were wrong there, 
sir," answered Mr. Jeffley. 

He could speak rationally still, he found, 
though his wits kept wandering off to the 
separation between himself and the old firm, 
and wondering why, even for the sake of 
'*' letting him down easy," Mr. Fulmer thought 
it worth while to mention the firm's future 
intentions at all. 

" And, with Mr. Deedes' consent, it is 
l)etter for me to tell you that at first he and I 
were not at one as regards making any 
change at our vaults." 

" I thank Mr. Deedes, sir ; it is what I 
should have expected from him. However 
faulty, I tried honestly — honestly, sir — to do 
my best ; and Mr. Deedes is not the gentle- 
man to despise anyone for doing no better 
than lay within his power." 

Mr. Fulmer shot a swift glance at his 
partner, who met it with a doubtful smile 
and slightly anxious look in his mild, kind 
eyes. 

" But I have persuaded him," went on Mr. 
Fulmer, rearing his head masterfully, as was 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 97 

his habit when he met with even silent oppo- 
sition, "■ that we can't do better than take 
you out of the vaults and plant you here 
as manager." 

" As what, sir ?" 

" Bless and save the man, is he deaf!" ex- 
claimed Mr. Fulmer. " You are going to be 
manager here at a smaller salary than Mr. 
Gregson had, and affairs will be on a different 
footing altogether. When all is said, how- 
ever, the post means promotion, any way you 
look at it. We will go into details presently'; 
meanwhile, I need only add, I hope we shall 
get on as comfortably in the future as we 
have in the past." 

" Does he mean it, sir — really ?" asked 
Jack, turning in his bewilderment to Mr. 
Deedes. 

" Mean it — of course I mean it," retorted 
Mr. Fulmer ; " what do you mean ?" 

" You are rather surprised, Jeffley, are you 
not r said Mr. Deedes kindly. " Well, so 
was I when Mr. Fulmer first broached the 
matter. I did not see my way — I feared 
that " 

VOL. II. 26 



MITRE COURT. 



" That I was too rough-and-ready, sir," 
finished Jack ; " and I am." 

" I don't care what the deuce you are, so 
long as you are honest," struck in Mr. Fulmer. 

" I am honest enough, if that is all ; 
but " 

" Never mind the buts now ; we'll hear 
plenty of them, no doubt, after a time. Any- 
thing you want to say to Mr. Deedes you 
had better get over at once — as you see he is 
not so strong as I hope he soon will be again 
— and then come into the next office that 
you may know just what you will have to do 
and the amount we mean to give you for 
doing it. What ! have you not a word for 
Mr. Deedes T 

" I'm dazed, sir!" exclaimed Jack pathetic- 
ally. 

" Then the sooner you get undazed the 
better." 

" I understand him," interposed Mr. 
Deedes; "don't I, Jeffley T 

" Yes, sir," murmured Jack faintly. 

" That being settled, then, we may get to 
business." 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 99 

And Mr. Fulmer, opening the door, gave 
the new manager a hint that all arrange- 
ments with the firm being satisfactorily con- 
cluded, one of the partners was prepared to 
enter into minutiae with him. 

" We are going to have in fresh blood," he 
explained, when he had gone into the 
question of work and pay. " Though I hope 
we none of us intend to die immediately if we 
can help it, still we feel we are not so young 
as we should like to be. Mr, Deedes will 
therefore bring a nephew into the office, and 
I a cousin. Personally I have a great opinion 
of youth — and, by-the-bye, that reminds me — 
that stripling who accompanied you to my 
house, is he still with the bill-broker in 
Nicholas Lane ?" 

" Yes, sir." 

" Well — ^just ask him to call upon me some 
day about twelve, will you .'*" 

" I will ask him," said Jack. 

" You say that as it you did not think he 
would come." 

" I can't answer for his coming, sir." 

26 — 2 



MITRE COURT. 



" You tell him he may find it his interest to 
call here." 

" I think that would be very likely to keep 
him away," said Jack mournfially, 

" Very well, then — tell him he may 710^ 
find it to his advantage." 

" I will do my best, sir," which, according- 
to promise. Jack did. 

"It would not surprise me one bit if Mn 
Fulmer handed you a matter of twenty or 
even twenty-five pounds," remarked Mr. 
Jeffley, after he had smoked for a few minutes 
over young Scott's first point-blank refusal. 

" I don't want his twenty-five pounds." 

" There was a time," said Jack meditatively, 
" when I thought a great deal of twenty-five 
pounds. I had to live very close, and look 
well after my sixpences, before I could save 
up enough even to buy my wife that gold 
chain she wears. Lord, though, was I not 
happy then !" 

"If poverty makes a man happy, the 
arcrument is I had better not ero to Dunstan's 
Hill," suggested Frank. 

Nevertheless he went, determined to reject 



IN DEEDES' OFFICE. 



the possible note indicated by Mr. Jeffley, 
and taking great comfort by the way out of 
the refusal he intended. 

On his return, as he came past the church 
towards Tower Street looking grave and pre- 
occupied, Mr. Jeffley met him. 

" What's up ?" asked that gentleman anx- 
iously. " Didn't he offer you anything worth 
having .'*" 

" Come with me," answered Frank, taking 
his friend by the arm and leading him into 
the peaceful retirement of St. Mary-at-Hill. 
" Now guess what your people have given 
me," he said, with flushed cheeks and excited 
manner. 

" A tenner ?" 

'' No." 

"A pony?" 

" No ; guess again." 

" Can't," answered Mr. Jeffley, puzzled. 
*^ Give it up — perhaps nothing." 

" Two hundred a year." 

"You're mad, Scott — raving mad !" 

"Oh no, I'm not — they are going to start 
a branch establishment for the sale of lisfht 



MITRE COURT. 



wines, and it is settled that I shall take part 
charge as soon as I can find suitable pre- 
mises." 

" Anything more of the same sort ?" said 
Jack incredulously. 

'' Yes ; I am going this hour, this instant, 
to see whether those offices Katzen was 
always hankering after in Mr. Brisco's old 
house are still to let." 

" Are you sure that is all ?" suggested his 
friend, with a fine irony. 

"All at present;" and Frank Scott released 
Mr. Jeffley's arm, and strode down Love 
Lane. 





CHAPTER V. 



COMPATRIOTS. 




iET a rose be as sweet and beautiful 
as it may, there is generally on its 
stem a thorn. Nothino- more sweet 
and beautiful than New Andalusia seemed at 
first could well be imagined, yet Mr. Katzen 
all through the golden summer succeeding his 
appointment found the proud position of 
Consul for that favoured country was not 
without its drawbacks. To begin with, many 
persons were absolutely indifferent as to 
whether even a land so blessed in its soil, in 
its climate, etc., possessed a representative 
in England or whether it had none. This 
was very hard to bear, but Mr. Katzen found 
that the fact of being unable to impress and 



I04 MITRE COURT. 



arouse envy in some individuals was harder 
still. 

" For example," he considered, " take that 
great ox John Jeffley — he thinks no more of me 
than he did when I had not a notion where to 
turn for sixpence ; his nod is just as familiar 
and his 'Well, Mr. Katzen, and how are things 
looking with you ?' as unmeaning and lacking 
in cordiality as of yore. Then turn I to that 
Frank Scott, a youth of promise. I could 
have moulded and made a young man such 
as he. His usefulness to me would indeed 
have been great, whilst to him the benefit 
could not be calculated ; and yet he looks as 
content as though he had not declined my 
offer, as if he were not still going and coming, 
fetching and carrying for the pleasure of 
employers who would show him the door 
supposing he summoned up courage to ask 
for an extra shilling a week." 

Worse than these two examples Mr. Katzen 
considered the behaviour of Miss Weir, who 
mocked at the idea of her suitor making a 
fortune and derided the Baron von Katzen- 
stein suggestion to the suggestor s face. In 



COMPATRIOTS. 



this case what made him feel the thorn-pricks 
so acutely was that he did not happen to be 
making his fortune, and that the chance of 
obtaining a title by purchase or otherwise 
seemed to have retired into the remote future. 

All these various stabs were trying, yet 
Mr. Katzen could have borne them had 
money not run very short. The way one 
looks at the state of one's own prospects is 
influenced, more than any of us would care to 
own, by whether our purse is full or empty. 
If full, how philosophically we can bear 
trouble, how bravely face misfortune ! if 
empty — ah ! my friends, there is so much 
implied in that " if," that you had better make 
up your minds never to let your purse get 
empty ! 

Should you do so, and see no means 
honest or otherwise of filling it, you will 
realize what Mr. Katzen felt when he found 
money had to be paid, and that there was no 
money to pay with. 

He had gone too fast, not for the first time 
in his life ; he had mentally sold his crop 
almost before the young leaves were above 



io6 MITRE COURT. 



ground ; he had made sure in his own mind, 
and it is unwise to be too sure ; he had, as he 
himself truly said, played the fool ; in a word, 
he had quarrelled with his bread and butter, 
being positive he had but to wave his Consul's 
wand, and rich meats and rare fruits would 
appear at his bidding. But they did not — -he 
might apparently wave as much as he liked, 
and produce no result. In the City summer 
is a bad season in which to quarrel with such 
portion of a loaf as Providence may send you. 
Experimentally Mr. Katzen proved the truth 
of this remark. 

His bread had been often little and his 
butter scanty, still it was better than none. 
In his well-furnished offices, in his suit of 
fashionably made clothes {still unpaid for), 
notwithstandinof the fact that he was Consul 
for New Andalusia, he found himself as 
utterly cornered as had been the case over 
and over again in Botolph Lane. But there 
his responsibilities were few, and as a rule 
something "turned up" to help him over 
whatever difficulty might be pressing. In 
Mitre Court, on the contrary, day succeeded 



COMPA TRIOTS. 107 



to day, and week to week, and month to 
month, and matters grew steadily worse. 

Mr. Katzen said nothing to anyone ; but 
as out in the warm sunshine he walked the 
streets, hurrying from office to bank and 
from bank to other men's offices, he asked 
himself, " What the deuce am I to do ?" till 
the question seemed by the mere force of 
iteration burnt in on his brain. 

What was he to do ? Clever and un- 
scrupulous, fertile in expedients, plausible 
and false, though he might be, he had come 
at last to what seemed a dead wall in his 
career. And just when he had got a fresh 
start too, and all things looked so promising. 
Moreover, it was all his own fault — he had 
commenced crowing too soon, and received a 
moral brickbat for his pains. He could not 
get on any longer without money ; there is 
nothing to be done without money — even a 
gold mine requires cash to work it. 

" I wonder whether there are any gold 
mines in New Andalusia, or if that is all a lie 
of Bernberg's," he marvelled, not that it 
signified much to him then. Had New 



io8 MITRE COURT. 



Andalusia been paved with gold, it did not 
seem as though his position could be much 
improved. 

" I wish I had not quarrelled with Bernberg, 
yet," he thought ; but it was of no use 
wishing, the quarrel chanced to be a certainty 
which could not be undone. 

" What is the matter with you ?" asked 
Mrs, Jeffley one evening, when he seemed 
more downhearted than she had ever pre- 
viously seen him. 

" I have come to a brook," he answered — 
" not a very wide one, but still it is enough. I 
cannot jump it. That is all, but for me more 
than sufficient." 

" I hardly understand," said Mrs. Jeffley, 
bewildered. " Are you in any trouble .'*" 

" The worst of trouble ; the old, old trouble 
— money." 

"Why, I hoped you had done with all 
that." 

" So another did — 1 myself. I was 
positive. It is bad to be positive." 

" And do you want much T 

" Yes — a great good lot," he answered, 



COMPATRIOTS. 109. 



thinking with a sort of ungrateful contempt 
of the sovereigns and half-sovereigns and 
even of the five-pound notes which Mrs. 
Jeffley had lent, and which had sufficed in 
those humble days ere he attained to the 
dignity of his present uneasy position. 

Mrs. Jeffley made no remark ; she only 
hurried out of the room, Mr. Katzen watching 
her. " She goes," he thought, " to get her 
modest hoard, her two or three pounds — or 
perhaps seven or eight, shall we say, 
Karl ?" 

Karl was quite agreeable — deeming, and 
rightly, eight, though not likely to be of much 
use, would be better than none. 

Presently Mrs. Jeffley returned. "Will 
that help you at all .'*" she asked, panting 
somewhat, for she had gone up two flights of 
stairs, and she was not thin. 

Mr. Katzen unfolded the notes she placed 
in his hand. They were in number five, 
Mrs. Jeffley was smiling and almost crying. 

" My dear soul !" he exclaimed. " What 
are these ?" 

" They are the rent," she answered. " I 



MITRE COURT. 



am so glad I had not paid it ; take them and 
welcome." 

" And if the Rent should happen to walk 
up the court and knock at the door, what 
then ?" 

" Why, it must knock another day, that is 
all." 

"And if it says it won't come another 
day ?" 

"It will though — it must ; and even if it 
won't, I have money Captain Hassell asked 
me to take care of for him. I can borrow 
that." 

" I do not like this," observed Mr. Katzen. 

" But you will have to like it," answered 
Mrs. Jeffley gaily. " I feel honoured and 
grateful that you still let me be of a little bit 
of use." 

" It is I who am grateful," said the Consul 
for New Andalusia, as he put the notes in his 
pocket-book. " Once again it is you who 
relieve me from a great difficulty. How am 
I to tell you what I feel ? I should think you 
were an angel, but that I prefer to regard 
you as the best and kindest of women." 



COMPATRIOTS. 



" Do not flatter me !'' she remarked. 

" Did I ever so do ?" he asked. "Coit/d I ?" 

He was in earnest. Mrs. Jeffley had in 
truth done him what seemed an enormous 
favour. She had relieved him, as he fondly 
hoped, from the necessity of eating humble 
pie, than which no dish — not even the cold 
shoulder — is nastier. Out once again into the 
world — his world bounded by Lombard Street 
on the east, and Mitre Court on the west — 
passed Mr. Katzen. He crossed his typical 
brook — he pursued his way for a few weeks 
over a fairly level country, but then there 
came more brooks, as in the lives of all such 
men there must come — brooks wide and dan- 
gerous — brooks little but deep, without the 
vestige of a plank across them. 

"There is no help for it," decided Mr. 
Katzen. He had judiciously sounded Mrs. 
Jeffley concerning that deposit left in her 
hands by Captain Hassell, and learned it was 
gone whence he could not recLim one penny, 
namely, to the landlord. 

" I thought it best to get the rent off my 
mind," explained Mrs. Jeffley, ignorant of the 



112 MITRE COURT. 



blow she was dealing ; "and if Captain Hassell 
should come back before you can pay me, I'll 
tell him I had occasion to use his money. 
Bless you, he won't care — make your mind 
easy about that." 

Mr. Katzen could have made his mind more 
than easy had Captain Hassell's good bank- 
notes been transferred to his keeping. How- 
ever, as they could not, he deemed it worse 
than useless to fret over the matter. 

" Either now or further on I must have made 
peace with that infernal Bernberg. Perhaps 
it is as well it should be now," he decided 
philosophically; and having so decided, he 
bent his steps in the direction of Alderman's 
Walk. 

Mr. Bernberg was the gentleman who had 
procured for him the New Andalusian ap- 
pointment, having gained which, Mr. Katzen 
made the not uncommon mistake of thinkino: 
he might safely kick away the ladder by means 
of which he mounted. 

When his countryman tapped at the door, 
Mr. Bernberg was "considering himself" in 
a cloud of tobacco smoke. He sat with his 



COMPATRIOTS. 113 



chair well tilted on its hind legs, with his feet 
raised on the back of another chair, a short 
briar pipe in his mouth, and a frown of dis- 
satisfaction on his forehead. Mr. Bernberg 
was not unlike the first Napoleon either in 
figure or features, and any stranger looking 
at him might have imagined he was deciding 
the fate of nations. Like the first Napoleon, 
however, and for that matter, perhaps also 
the third, Mr. Bernberg was engaged solely 
in thinking about his own affairs. 

" Ho, ho !" he said, in their common lan- 
guage, as Mr. Katzen put his head inside the 
door, and his accent was as beautifully guttural 
as the new Consul's own. ** So it is you, at 
last !" 

" First or last, it is I," answered Mr. 
Katzen. 

" So I see ; well — come in. What are you 
standing there for ? What is your news ?" 

" I have no news. I was passing, and 
thought I would look in." 

" Very kind of you, I am sure. You don't 
happen to want anything, do you ?" 

" No ; I have all I want, many thanks." 

VOL. II. 27 



114 MITRE COURT. 

" Sit down, at any rate. Will you smoke ? 
This is cavendish that never paid duty." 

" Again, thanks, but I prefer a cigar ;" and 
Mr. Katzen, suiting the action to the word, 
drew forth a well-filled case and lit up. 

" Humph!" said Mr. Bernberg; "the Consul 
for New Andalusia gets his cigars cheap now, 
I suppose ?" 

"Very cheap indeed." 

" And other necessaries ?" 

" Yes ; and luxuries too." 

" Including pocket-money, eh ?" 

" Yes ; and more than pocket-money." 

" Sufficient for the new Consul to keep a 
balance at his banker's ?" 

" Even enough to keep a balance which 
gladdeneth his banker's heart." 

" Katzen," observed Mr. Bernberg dispas- 
sionately, and speaking from the right-hand 
corner of his mouth, the exigencies of his 
pipe compelling him to keep the other well 
closed, " you are the prince of liars." 

" Much obliged ; and then " 

" Why, then the same remark repeated, 
and then the same remark repeated over 



COMPATRIOTS. 115 



again. It is impossible to enlarge on such a 
statement. There can be no greater than 
greatest." 

" Having conceded that point, once more I 
ask, what then ?" 

" It is I who should put that question in 
another form. Why are you here — what do 
you want ? How does it chance you honour 
me with a visit — you who are basking in the 
sunshine of prosperity ?" 

** I have said I was passing, and thought I 
would look in." 

" So much attached to your old friend 
Victor as all that T 

** Incredible as it may seem to your 
modesty, I felt as I came across the church- 
yard, where lies Shaughsware,* that my heart 
warmed to my old friend." 

" The devil must be in your pockets, then." 

* Principal Secretary to the Persian Ambassador. He 
was buried August loth, 1626, in the lower churchyard 
of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, the Ambassador, the junior 
Shaughsware, and the principal Persians attending the 
funeral. The rites and ceremonies were for the most 
part performed by the son, who, sitting cross-legged, 
alternately read and sang, with weeping and sighing. 
This continued morning and evening for the space of a 

27 — 2 



n6 MITRE COURT. 



" You are wrong-, my dear Victor. The 
devil is neither in my pocket nor my 
heart." 

" Then I am honoured. By-the-bye, as 
you are on such excellent terms with your 
banker, could you get me a bill done, do you 
think ?" 

" Possibly — depends on the names and 
time it has to run. " Oh yes," he added, 
glancing at the document Mr. Bernberg held 
out for his inspection, " I am sure my man 
would put this through at once ;" and he would 
have taken the slip of paper but that his 
friend laughed and put it up again in his 
pocket-book. 

*' On reflection," said that gentleman, with 
another laugh, " I will keep this by me till it 
matures, or send it round to my own poor 
little one-horse money-changer. It is lucky 
for you that you have a big man for banker. 
I dare say he never troubles himself to look 
at the amount of your overdraft .^" 

month, and had not the rudeness of the rabble prevented, 
would have continued during the whole stay of the 
Persians in this country. 



COMPATRIOTS. 117 



" No, he is very good about that," said 
Mr. Katzen, who knew if he had drawn a 
cheque for five shilHngs beyond the sum 
lying- in his bank it would have come back 
to him with the ominous letters N. S. traced 
upon it. '* And how is business ?" 

" Flat, confoundedly flat — flatter than ditch- 
water, however flat that may be." 

" Things do seem very dull ; but that is 
most likely owing to the time of year. 
Everybody who can lay claim to being any- 
body is out of town, except you and me.'' 

" And we are here probably only because we 
can't afford to go away," was Mr. Bernberg's 
crushing answer. " My wife and girls are at 
Heme Bay — that is as much as I can manage 
this year. Lucky you, who have no wife and 
no girls to want to go anywhere. You must 
be rolling in wealth. I dare swear you have 
at least a dozen orood irons in the fire con- 
nected with New Andalusia." 

" No, not an iron. What is the use of 
trying to heat anything at a period when 
there are no fires V 

" I am not so sure about that. There is 



iiS MITRE COURT. 



plenty of money lying loose just now if one 
could but suggest a good investment." 

" That is the rub," agreed Mr. Katzen. 

" Had you only been wise enough to for- 
ward that venture I proposed early in the sum- 
mer, we might have been rolling in riches." 

Mr. Katzen shook his head. 

" Well, unhappily, there is no use going 
back to that now. The directors have all 
been snapped up elsewhere. Ah, my God ! 
what a chance was then thrown literally into 
the gutter !" 

Mr. Katzen smoked on and said nothincr. 

" What are you thinking of doing now ?" 
asked Mr. Bernberg. " I suppose you did 
not come round to-day merely to tell me the 
state of the exchange thermometer .'*" 

'' I don't know why I came round, except 
because it seemed a long time since I had 
seen you." 

" What are you doing about the emigration 
scheme ?" 

" Nothing — people won't emigrate ; at 
leasts if they have to bear any part of the 
expense." 



COMPA TRIOTS. 1 19 



" I did not think there was so much sense 
left in the world," remarked Mr. Bernberg. 

" It is not sense, it is want of money." 

" A judicious distinction, Karl." 

" I am not sure that I should have ac- 
cepted this precious post had I known all the 
trouble it would involve, and realized how 
difficult it might prove to get back any re- 
turn." 

" I am sorry to hear you say that." 

" Yes, I feel I could have employed my 
time to much greater advantage." 

" You must bear in mind the day is still 
young." 

" That is true ; yet it should be giving some 
promise of a blue sky." 

" You are at last getting intelligible, Con- 
sul," laughed Mr. Bernberg. " Confess, are 
there not a whole legion of little imps dis- 
porting themselves through the emptiness of 
your pockets ?" 

" No ; like the lady in the popular ballad, I 
have stillavery great fortune in silver and gold." 

" Then what is the trouble ?" 

" I want to see some source from which a 



MITRE COURT. 



continuous supply of silver and gold is to be 
depended on." 

" But, according to your old creed, suffi- 
cient for the day was the evil or the good 
thereof." 

"Yes; but then there seemed no use in 
looking beyond the day ; now, with so many 
chances within reach, it would be absolute 
madness to forget to-morrow must come, 
and on the top of that, probably, other 
morrows, " 

" My good Karl, if you have not the 
mildness of the dove, you have the craft of 
the serpent ; but to what are these mournful 
confessions tending ?" 

"To the fact that I want something large 
and honest to operate with and on." 

"Soh!" 

The tone in which this was uttered cannot 
be described. 

" I want something that will bear the 
scrutiny — something in its way stupendous, 
yet that need have no fear either of the sun 
by day or a policeman's lantern by night." 

*' Really, this grows touching. The 



COMPATRIOTS. 121 

Consul for New Andalusia is developing a 
turn not merely for fancy, but for Realism !" 

" It is one essential of my dream-project," 
pursued Mr. Katzen, warming to his work, 
"that there should be nothing shady about 
it." 

" I see — I understand. Who was the man 
that said he would give twenty thousand 
pounds for a good character ? Major Char- 
teris, was it not ?" 

" I do not know, and I do not care. The 
man who would give twenty thousand pounds 
for anything except a freehold estate must be 
an abject fool." 

" Softly, softly, you too impulsive country- 
man of mine own. The only reason this 
English ass, as you regard him, would have 
been willing to give so much for apparently 
so little, was that he believed he could make 
a hundred thousand out of it. Not such a 
fool as anybody might think — eh, my friend ?" 

Mr. Katzen shrugged his shoulders im- 
patiently. Although, according to his own 
statement, his pockets were so well furnished, 
still there was not really an inch of his soul 



MITRE COURT. 



at that moment vacant for the consideration 
of any theme or person save the theme and 
person of Karl Katzen. 

" I think not much of it," he said. " To a 
man with twenty thousand pounds in hard 
cash, what can character, bad or good, 
account ?" 

*' Much, I should say," answered Mr. 
Bernberg virtuously. " For myself, if I must 
choose, if I could not have both, I should 
prefer a good character to any sum of 
money." 

" I do love listening to Victor when he 
gets on his platform !" 

" I am not on any platform. I look back 
over my life and know to what I owe my 
success. How do you suppose I could have 
got along in this England where we are, if I 
had not been an honest man ?" 

" That is a question I cannot answer. Put 
it the other way, and say, ' If you had been 
an honest man,' and I will try to guess," 
sneered Mr. Katzen. 

Mr. Bernberg laid down his pipe, rose from 
his chair, and stood confronting the new 



COMPA TRIOTS. 1 23, 



Consul, with his hands plunged deep in the 
pockets of his office coat. 

" Do you say I ever cheated anyone ?" he 
asked. " Did I ever cheat you ?" 

" Well, no — perhaps not." 

" Certainly not; on the contrary, have I not 
done you good, much good, which you repay 
with insolence and Ingratitude ? So long as 
you desired to be Consul for New Andalusia, 
who so meek, who so servile, as Karl 
Katzen } Every day he came — ay, for three 
whole weeks — and it was only when arrived 
at the conclusion I had no power he ceased 
to climb my stairs. Then, after at last I got 
this good appointment for him, did he not 
offer lifelong service in return — ay, till he 
had pocketed my hard-earned money and 
was well floated off the rocks ; but how 
quick came the difference ! ' Having served 
my turn you can go to the deuce, friend 
Victor, and my blessing go with you !' — that 
is what you said." 

"When did I say that?" 

" Why, you have been saying it all summer 
in every action. When I wanted a little 



124 MITRE COURT. 



favour, it was ' No, no, no ;' when I asked 
for my money, it was flung back in my face 
as if you were lord of the Bank of England. 
When I wanted a little information which 
you could have got as easily as I can lift this 
pipe, you found yourself unable even to put 
a question to that Jeffley in whose house you 
lodge." 

" Upon my honour, I did put it, and got 
snubbed for my pains. You might as well 
try to pick a Bramah lock as Jack Jeffley when 
the business of his employers is concerned." 

" Then you should have picked his wife." 

" He never tells her anything that passes in 
the office." 

'' Bah !" 

" Fact, I assure you ; besides, I do not 
believe he knows anything that passes in the 
office. He is a fathead — a great blundering 
John Bull." 

" Is he ? Do you know, my Karl, I am 
greatly afraid you are trying to humbug me 
— me, Victor Bernberg." 

" How humbug you ? What do you 
mean ?" 



COMPATRIOTS. 125 



" You are aware of that." 

"In all truth — upon my sacred conscience 
— I am not." 

Mr. Bernberg looked him over in surprise. 

" For once, dear friend, do you know I feel 
disposed to believe you ?" he said. *' I 
could barely have credited it. What a 
duffer, as the wise English express them- 
selves, you must be !" and Mr. Bernberg 
laughed that hard, joyless laugh which we 
may imagine echoes through the gloomy 
shades of an unblessed hereafter. 

" Will you have the kindness to disburden 
your mind of a secret which is evidently 
weighing heavily upon it ?" 

" All in good time," answered Mr. Bern- 
berg, still after his own fashion enjoying his 
own jest. " Let me see, it is scarcely six 
months since I made you what you called the 
most fortunate fellow alive. I dealt you a good 
hand — I would have helped you to play it; 
but, like a spoiled child, you pushed me away 
and cried, ' No, no, you go ; I can do all 
myself.' " 

" It is not the case ; but have it as you will." 



126 MITRE COURT. 



" We were then in spring ; here we are in 
autumn. You have spilled your cards — you 
have wasted your time. The talent I gave 
has been so long in the earth it is scarcely 
worth digging up. You have been a foolish 
virgin, my poor Karl ; lamps filled over and 
over again have burnt to some purpose, while 
you sat waiting for oil to be brought to you. 
Pooh ! pah ! puff ! — I thought you were 
clever and capable. I am disappointed in 
you — for your own sake, remember. As 
for me, I don't want your aid — I can do 
without you. Were you even to propose 
anything new I should feel it was bound to 
fail." 

" You think me a sort of Jonah, in a 
word ?" 

" Well — yes, perhaps ; he was a very 
foolish person, that Jonah. Self-opinionated 
and impatient — destitute of faith — disobedi- 
ent, ungrateful — and foolish withal. Upon 
the whole, you are not unlike Jonah." 

" Supposing that I am not — what then ?" 

"Why, nothing that I am aware of; only 
you may chance one day to find yourself cast 



COMPATRIOTS. 127 



overboard, where there is no friendly whale at 
hand into whose inside you may creep for 
safety." 

" Ah, but you should remember how re- 
joiced Jonah was to get out of the inside of 
that friendly whale." 

" Just like Jonah — he never even said 
'thank you' for the shelter — to me, though 
it is of no consequence. Do you want any 
good furniture cheap ?" 

" No — why do you ask ?" 

" Only that if it had happened that you 
did, there is to be a sale at Forest Hill, at 
the once residence of a certain Samuel 
Gregson." 

" Indeed, is that so ? Then I can guess 
who pulled the wires." 

" No, you cannot. I myself have no idea, 
unless it was your thick-headed John Bull — 
Jeffley." 

" Absurd — you have not any knowledge of 
Jeffley." 

" Nor has Karl Katzen, I fancy. It now 
happens that John Jeffley, Esquire, of Fowkes' 
Buildings — husband of your excellent land- 



128 MITRE COURT. 



lady — is manager of Deedes', vice Samuel 
Gregson, cashiered." 

" Impossible — quite !" 

"Ask him, and you shall see. Other 
people in the world are clever besides you ; 
and now I must, much as I regret to end so 
pleasant a visit, ask you to go, as my business, 
like wind and tide, won't wait. Good-day, my 
dear friend — delighted to have seen you — so 
glad you need nothing — so pleased you have 
got beyond the want of a few pounds !" 

" Good-day," returned Mr, Katzen ; "I will 
look in again the next time I am passing." 

" Do; and don't forget Jonah." 

" No, I won't forget Jonah," said the new 
Consul, laughing with a bad grace the while 
he felt he could have shaken his dear friend 
Victor. 





CHAPTER VI. 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 




'N a very indifferent temper Mr. 
Katzen wended his way down 
Bishopsgate Street. There was no 
cause why he should have selected that 
route in preference to the back streets by 
which he had sought his dear friend Victor, 
but, upon the other hand, there existed 
equally no reason why he should have chosen 
any other. At that moment all roads seemed 
alike to him. New Andalusia, spite of its 
climate, its wealth of minerals, its unsur- 
passed situation, its advantages of soil, water, 
mountains, plains, forests and bays, peace- 
able population (mostly still unclothed — and 
so hungering and thirsting for the produc- 
VOL. II. 28 



I30 MITRE COURT. 



tions of British looms), appeared to him but 
as vile Dead Sea apples. 

"Bah!" he muttered, with an expression 
of disgust, " I wish it had been at the devil 
before I ever had anything to do with it — 
and I wish Bernberg was at the devil too, 
with all my heart. He will be some day — 
would it were this day !" 

It was a wretched afternoon ; sky leaden, 
streets muddy, pavements greasy. No single 
item seemed wanting to complete Mr. Kat- 
zen's wretchedness. With empty pockets, in 
which a whole legion of demons were dis- 
porting themselves ; with a clerk to pay who 
must be paid (" I'll get rid of him, anyhow," 
thought the new Consul, in a sort of mental 
parenthesis) ; with creditors who had begun 
to ask for money ; with nothing on earth 
coming in except, at the rarest of intervals, 
a few uncertain fees — the look-out certainly 
could not be regarded as attractive. Never- 
theless, Mr. Katzen had weathered many 
worse storms. 

It was rather a dull sense of foreboding 
and sharp feeling of injustice having been 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 131 

dealt him by some one — fate or luck, perhaps, 
as he styled the vague fetish he acknow- 
ledged for deity — than the actual hopeless- 
ness of his position, which seemed so hard to 
fight. 

Men who live from hand to mouth — men 
who are always feasting or fasting on the 
proceeds of their wits — are peculiarly sus- 
ceptible to joyous or depressing influences. 
A turn of the scale makes them imagine 
henceforth they can play at football with the 
world — a straw causing the beam to fall the 
other way causes them the keenest anxiety. 
They have their unlucky dates and their 
fortunate days ; they put faith in numbers, 
and [find evil omens in coincidences ; they 
believe certain places are propitious to their 
wishes, and that disaster meets them on other 
thresholds. 

Destitute of religion, they are slaves to 
superstition ; rash as children, they are as 
easily daunted. Secession or coldness on the 
part of those they even distrust and dislike, 
they instinctively regard as a sign of dis- 
pleasure on the part of the one fickle power 

28—2 



MITRE COURT. 



they acknowledge. It is hard for such men 
to keep their heads erect and turn a brave 
face to their fellows, but they do both — 
perhaps because they know if once they took 
to shambling- along life's crowded thorough- 
fares they would soon be elbowed into the 
gutter or trampled under foot. The world 
has grown so grey it does not want to have 
its spirits depressed by the sight of misery. 

As a rule, each man's trouble is enough for 
himself, oftentimes more almost than he can 
bear. Life has come to be a great game of 
brag and make-believe ; people lie nowadays 
less on the chance of deceiving their neigh- 
bours than in the forlorn hope of reviving 
their own drooping courage. 

Had he met anyone at that moment 
willing to listt n to his legends, Mr. Katzen 
felt just in the frame of mind which enables a 
person to perform the apparently impossible 
feat of "lying through a deal board." He 
could have done it for the sport — to keep his 
hand in, as a mere matter of good practice ; 
but no acquaintance ran across his path. It 
was one of those dark days when nothing a 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 133 

man wants comes within his compass. All 
this man could find to do was to elbow some 
lad out of his way, as though it seemed 
rather a pleasure to him to be asked, 
" Where he was a shovin' to," or " if he 
wanted his ugly mug made uglier." 

After all, it is possibly a mistake to imagine 
adversity brings out our finest qualities — 
with some of us the cruel fire only causes 
whatever writing in our natures is darkest 
and worst to spring into prominence. That 
afternoon, had a twenty-pound note been 
lying snugly close to Mr. Katzen's heart, he 
might even have bestowed a halfpenny on 
the woman with sunken cheeks who for so 
many years swept (or perhaps did not sweep) 
the crossing from the corner of old Broad 
Street to the Bank of England, instead of 
negativing her suggestion of charity almost 
with a curse. Mr. Katzen was indeed in a 
very evil mood. 

Coming down Bishopsgate Street he had 
debated within himself whether he should 
raise an internecine war by incontinently 
marching to Fowkes' Buildings and offering 



134 MITRE COURT. 



his best wishes to Mrs. Jeffley on the worldly- 
advancement of her husband. 

He would have liked to do this very much 
indeed, liked to forestall the news Mr. Jeffley 
had, he felt convinced, for some reason held 
back ; but prudence proved stronger than the 
desire for mere pleasure. 

" It would not do," he decided. " It 
would be good fun, but I might belike bring 
a whole old house about my ears — tumble, 
tumble, tumble — walls and chimneys and all 
— just at a time, too, when I have no other 
house to go to. She won't be best pleased 
when her stupid Jack tells her what Heaven 
has sent one day he shut his foolish eyes and 
opened his big mouth, but she'd be less 
pleased if I told her ; besides, it may not be 
true — all Victor says is oftentimes not quite 
Gospel." 

He had arrived at the determination, 
therefore, of keeping his information to him- 
self ere he turned sharp out of Bishopsgate 
into Threadneedle Street. 

"That is where the old Flower Pot 
stood," he thought, as he passed the spot 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. ■ 135 

whence the "stage" conveyed Charles Lamb 
and Mr. Minns to their respective destina- 
tions. Mr. Katzen knew nothing about 
Charles Lamb, and not much more concern- 
ing Charles Dickens, but his acquaintance 
with London was sufficiently remote to 
enable him to recollect how many omni- 
buses, crowded inside and out, were wont to 
start from that precise corner, and bear their 
freight away to Dalston and Stoke- Newing- 
ton, and Tottenham and Edmonton, as well 
as to Hackney, and Shacklewell, and Homer- 
ton, and the two Claptons. 

He had seen men fight there for places, 
just as men fight now for seats in the tram- 
cars. 

'' Good Lord !" he thought, " I wonder 
what has become of them all, and the negro 
fellow who used to be continually standing 
here. How London has changed, and seem- 
ingly not for the better for thee, dear 
Karl." 

As he passed the Baltic Coffee House he 
paused for a moment and looked up ; some- 
how, the greatness and grandeur of the bubble 



136 MITRE COURT. 



once blown within those walls had never 
struck him so forcibly before. 

" It was a big thing !" he repeated. " Ah f 
there were chances in those days !" and then 
his mind drifted off to the fortunes which 
were made during the time of Napoleon's 
wars. 

Mr. Katzen must at that moment have felt 
himself sadly out of elbows as regarded his 
lucky coat, or he never could have arrived at 
such a ridiculous conclusion. 

The giants of even fifty years ago were 
but pigmies in comparison with the plausible 
rogues of to-day. Then it required a whole 
system of elaborate machinery to pick some 
simpleton's pocket. Now, in the twinkling 
of an eye he is denuded of every rag he owns, 
and left stark naked, before he is aware any- 
thing special has happened to him. 

Then, people bated their breath and held 
up their hands when the tidings of some 
grand swindle trickled down from the m.e- 
tropolis into unsophisticated country regions ; 
now, it would be the merest affectation to 
express surprise at anything save honesty. 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 137 

In this present year of grace, on hearing 
of some bigger piece of rascaHty than usual, 
we cry, " How clever !" Our grandfathers, 
who possibly were not much better than their 
descendants, on the contrary, said — " How 
wicked I" and really the words are not quite 
synonymous. 

Parodying Carlyle's famous statement about 
the thirty millions of population, " mostly 
fools," it is scarce any exaggeration to state 
broadly that the inhabitants of all civilized 
countries are at this time made up of biters 
and bitten. 

When a man tells you he has never been 
bitten, rest assured, supposing he is speaking 
the truth, that he is either a biter or never 
had anything worth biting. 

No one recognised more fully the fact, that 
at the time of that South Sea Bubble, great, 
profitable, heart-enlivening swindles were but 
in their infancy, than Karl Katzen. He had 
seen a few nice things done. He had tried, 
not wholly unsuccessfully, to do a few nice 
things himself, only in those cases, hitherto, 
other men had reaped the harvest himself 



138 MITRE COURT. 



had helped to sow. That was what made 
him so sad and bitter. He could have cursed 
the prosperous men he met, whom he knew 
by intuition ; only in the City it is not con- 
sidered fitting to turn and anathematize aloud 
any passer-by whose appearance is repugnant 
to one's moral, physical, or aesthetic taste. 

For which reason, possibly, he only blas- 
phemed that lean-cheeked imposition of a 
crossing - sweeper under his breath ; but, 
patience, friend Katzen, the day will soon 
be when you can curse whom you please at 
your own pleasure. 

It is coming, it is coming fast. In your 
impatience the dawn seems long of breaking, 
but even in honest endeavour night must 
precede the sunrise. 

So patience ! Yours is not honest en- 
deavour, though you would not object even 
to that if the gift were in you, and therefore 
the sunrise will be earlier. Already the 
germ of a great idea is about to spring into 
life. 

You are unconscious of the fact, but the fact 
remains nevertheless. A lily bulb has no 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 139 

knowledge of all the creamy beauty, all the 
subtle languid sweetness lying folded within 
its unlikely exterior, awaiting only the process 
of time to stand tall and graceful in the golden 
sunshine ; and though Mr. Katzen had not 
much resembling a lily packed away about his 
person, still in like manner he failed to under- 
stand that a chance encounter was about to 
cause the conception of a project great yet 
simple. 

All Nature's grandest effects are produced 
by means apparently absurdly simple ; and 
who was Karl Katzen, as that gentleman 
would himself have asked, that he should 
attempt any superiority to Nature ? 

It was the sight of a well-known financier, 
who stood just at the corner of Princes 
Street, discoursing to a friend familiarly as if 
he were nobody — as though he had not started 
more swindles and stripped the feathers off 
more pigeons than any man in England ; as 
if he had not provided in good time for a 
rainy day, and so, when that day came, been 
in a position to snap his fingers at judges, 
creditors, Victoria herself, and the officers of 



I4b MITRE COURT. 



Victoria's sheriffs — which proved so inspiring- 
to Mr. Katzen. 

Why should he, the financier, that day be 
prosperous, successful, a very power in com- 
panies, admired and feared in the City, desired 
of all men, while Karl Katzen walked the 
stony-hearted pavements in boots payment 
for which he was being dunned for, and poor 
as Job after that fatal day when his " sons and 
his daughters were eating and drinking wine 
in their eldest brother's house"? 

Not certainly because Karl Katzen was less 
of a rogue at heart ; scarcely, vanity whispered, 
because he was less clever ; assuredly not 
because he had ever felt inopportune qualms 
of conscience, or permitted consideration for 
others to influence any scheme which he had 
in hand. 

" I'm down at heel enough, I allow," 
thought the impecunious Consul, " but hang 
it ! he must have been more down at one 
time. He wasn't born with a silver spoon in 
his mouth, lords were not his godfathers, or 
great ladies his nursing mothers ; he did not 
marry a fortune. At one time his name stank 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 141 

in men's nostrils. When he came to grief 
over that English opium venture what a hue- 
and-cry there was — all the little business curs 
in London thought he had sunk so low they 
could throw mud on his coat and he would 
never dare resent the insult ! What a rush 
there was to the Bankruptcy Court to see dis- 
honesty brought to book — my faith ! I was 
among the fools, but I wouldn't have missed 
the sight for much, 

"Abashed — why abashed? Never hold 
up his head again — pooh ! the fellow held it 
higher than ever. Ruined — bah !" Mr, 
Katzen laughed almost aloud at the folly of 
those false prophets. "Why, he drove down 
to the Court in his carriage and pair, and he 
had a stephanotis in his button-hole, and he 
looked well and prosperous and hearty, and 
as if that moment returned from a long 
holiday out of town, which indeed was pretty 
nearly the case, and he said, ' I have nothing, 
nothing in the world. I have not sixpence 
of my own, everything belongs to my wife,' 
which came out to be true. In the prosperous 
time he had taken heed to his ways, and 



142 MITRE COURT. 



settled enough upon his good lady to keep the 
whole family, himself included, in necessaries, 
luxuries, and pocket money. Wise folks 
shook their heads and felt sure he could 
never show his face in the City again — he 
would be hooted out of it. Ah ! ha ! but 
they saw what they saw — before two years 
had passed, this wicked green bay-tree 
flourishing better than ever, financing foreign 
railways, getting concessions for Russian 
canals, netting fifty thousand pounds out of 
the Blue Valley Loan," at which point Mr. 
Katzen's reminiscences of a man so truly 
great and good came to a sudden stop. 

" Gott in Himmel ! Why should not New 
Andalusia too have a loan ?" was the brilliant 
idea which brought him to a standstill. 
" She must want one badly, poor thing — she 
shall have it. She has cattle on a thousand 
hills, but no means of killing, or transporting, 
or selling them. All she wants is money 
to develop her resources ; they shall be 
developed. Dear Karl, at last thou hast 
struck the right nail on the head ! Ten 
thousand blessings on thy head, Deladroit. 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 145 



How I love — how I respect — how I admire 
thee !" 

Scarce a second served for all this and 
much more to pass through Mr. Katzen's 
mind. He merely "paused on his step," and 
it was done. Then he walked forward to his 
office with a light heart and elastic tread. 
He was a changed man. When he left the 
Poultry behind he felt jaded, envious, dis- 
couraged ; as he crossed King Street he 
would not, to use an expression of Mr. 
Jeffley's, have cared to call the Queen his 
godmother. 

At that moment empty pockets were 
nothing, less than nothing, to the New 
Andalusian Consul. The night had been 
dark, and the dawn was not yet, but he knew 
it must come. 

For what amount should the loan be } 
Not less than one million, anyhow, and for 
many millions if well put on the market. 
Out of those millions how much would stick 
to the lean, lithe fingers of Karl Katzen ? 

Enough, at all events. He meant to take 
care of that. It was his idea, his very own. 



144 MITRE COURT. 



his brain-child. Karl did not intend his 
offspring should bring no money home to the 
paternal exchequer. 

" The man who does not take care of 
himself is a fool," he thought, " and I am 
no fool." 

It chanced to be New Andalusian mail 
night, and he did not let the grass in 
Cheapside grow long under his feet as he 
hied to Mitre Court. By that post a letter 
must go, apprising his Government that the 
English people were wildly eager to lend 
them money. 

At that moment Mr. Katzen conjured up 
a picture of John Bull, his breeches pockets 
full of gold, which he was essaying vainly to 
pour into the lap of fair, fertile, friendly New 
Andalusia. 

There was no time to lose. Somebody 
else might behold the same picture. 

Already a wiser rival might have dis- 
covered even greater loveliness in the dusky 
beauty than himself. Deladroit, for example. 
Deladroit, whom he had but just blessed, and 
now most unreasonably felt half inclined to 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 145 

curse ! He, Katzen, would not miss this 
post, however. He looked at his watch. 
He had only just time to dash off a letter. 

He was now at the corner of Milk Street, 
another half-minute saw him in Mitre Court. 
Hastily he ran up the stairs, taking two steps 
at a time, turned the handle of his outer 
office, and found it locked. 

"Ho, ho," said Mr. Katzen to himself; 
" what's all this ?" Then he drew out his 
own key, unlocked the door, flung it wide, 
and beheld total darkness. 

" Soh !" he exclaimed aloud ; but, as he 
had no time to lose, he struck an etna, lit the 
gas, pulled out writing materials and wrote as 
a man might write for dear life. 

" Soh !" he said again, in a weary yet 
exultant tone, pushing the letter from him ; 
after which he addressed an envelope, and 
folding his communication, thrust it into the 
cover, which he sealed with wax. 

** Scene the first — act the first," he laughed, 
and taking up the letter, sped off to Saint 
Martin-le-Grand. He had not, though he 
arrived there panting, thirty seconds to 

VOL. 11. 29 



146 MITRE COURT. 



Spare ; but that did not matter. The great 
letter was gone — the great project launched. 
Walking back to the office he considered 
matters more at his leisure, and found they 
were not likely to end badly for Karl Katzen. 

With most earthly beakers of success, 
however, there is mixed some drop of bitter, 
and even as he in imagination sipped the 
nectar of good fortune New Andalusia 
promised to bring him, Mr. Katzen was un 
pleasantly conscious of a flavour of gall that 
somewhat spoiled the pleasure of his draught. 
Now he had posted his letter the want of 
money pushed itself once again to the front. 
It is all very well for a man to tell himself 
and other people he can get money, but it is 
not always easy to do so. Mr. Katzen knew 
this from experience. To go back no further 
than last Whitsuntide- — but, bah ! what was 
the use of going back at all 'i What he had 
to do now was to go forward, and consider 
how best to tide over the present difficulty. 

With the air of one accustomed to such 
exercises, he took out all his worldly wealth, 
laid it on his blotting-pad, and counted over 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 147 

the few coins with leisurely consideration. 
The state of the finances was bad. 

" Scarce enough to jingle together," re- 
flected Mr. Katzen. *' Matters could not 
well be worse, my Karl. But courage." 

It needed some courao-e to face such a 
position, but it is true in London, as in all 
great towns, that no one can forecast what 
a day may bring forth. Even then help 
might be on its way towards this deserving 
man. Upon the other hand, it might not. 

Debating this might and might not with 
himself, as he had debated the same question 
often and often before, Mr, Katzen drew 
forth his watch, detached it from the chain, 
and looked at it with eyes full of regret. 
Naturally, he did not like parting with his 
watch, even for a short period. A watch is 
a companion, a friend ; in the eyes of the 
outer world a certain guarantee for solvency 
and respectability. No one could regard the 
entrusting of a watch — shall we so put the 
matter in order to avoid offence ? — even to 
the temporary care of the mildest of Hebrews 
as quite the correct thing. Suppose anyone 

29 — 2 



148 MITRE COURT. 



asked him the time ? He could not well say- 
he had broken the spring of his watch, or 
smashed the glass, because in such a case 
the jeweller employed would have lent him 
another. Mr. Katzen sighed. After all, it 
is not so easy as some persons imagine to be 
absolutely respectable with only two half- 
crowns and a threepenny piece in one's pocket. 
Still, Mr. Katzen wished to be respectable. 
Like Major Charteris, he was beginning to 
understand that respectability may be worked 
as capital. 

Pensively he contemplated his diamond 
ring, and fingered his studs, which Mr. Bern- 
berg honestly believed to be paste. 

" No, it is best the watch should go," he 
decided. ''Why — why have I been so 
simple as to always wear these things ? Ah, 
wait but a little, we will all be wiser soon. 
Anyhow, I can tide over till midday .to- 
morrow, and something meanwhile may turn 
up." 

Having settled which point, he again 
shipped the ring of his watch on to the swivel 
of that heavy brassy-looking chain he af- 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 149 



fected, drew down his waistcoat, locked away 
his papers tidily, put out the gas, and passing 
through the outer office, laughed as he de- 
scended the stairs. 

He was laughing to think that he should 
now be able to get rid of his clerk without a 
week's notice or a week's pay. 

" And I will broach the subject of his 
coming to me to old Brisco. Ay, and good 
faith, I have ten, twenty minds to return to 
Botolph Lane. There I had mostly good 
fortune. Yes, I will sleep upon that notion." 

Thinking much upon it even ere he slept, 
Mr. Katzen was making the best of his way 
to Fowkes' Buildings when he met Mr. 
Jeffley smoking his after-tea pipe. He liked 
doing this better walking along the streets 
than in his own especial den, in and out of 
which the cleverest woman in England was in 
the habit of rushing some score times per hour. 

On this special evening things had been 
worse than usual, for one of the children 
named Wilhelmina, whom Jack, in " his 
stupid way," was wont to call Billy, was 
sickening with a feverish cold, and Mrs. 



ISO MITRE COURT. 



Jeffley consequently found it necessary to 
open and shut the parlour door at intervals of 
about a minute. Jack had wanted to go and 
sit with " the young one," but he was promptly 
told that "if he couldn't talk sense, he had 
best not talk at all." 

" How do I know," asked Mrs. Jeffley, 
" what's going to be the matter with her ? 
smallpox or diphtheria, likely as not ; and if 
it is, what is to become of the lodgers is 
beyond me to imagine." 

" Won't it be better to have the doctor see 
her at once T asked Mr. Jeffley. " I'll fetch 
him in a minute," and he made a movement 
as if to do so. 

" Just stay where you are," snapped his 
wife. " Do you suppose I haven't sent for 
him, while you were dawdling over your 
work ?" 

" I never dawdle over my work," an- 
swered Jack, touched in his tenderest point. 

" Well, stopping away then while you 
finished your work." 

" I must stop till I finish my work," he re- 
marked. 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 151 

" There, I won't speak another word. 
Nobody can talk with a person taking them 
up short every minute." 

" I don't want to take you up short," an- 
swered Mr. Jeffley. " Only tell me what you 
would like me to do, and I'll do it." 

" There's no need for you to do anything. 
Mrs. Childs has been round three times for 
the doctor already. I am sure that poor 
woman must be ready to drop. Little as 
you think of her, I've but to say '* go," and 
she'll run her feet off." 

" Then, if Doctor Morris can't come, we 
must find somebody who can come," declared 
Jack, with unwonted decision. 

" Yes, and see the child stretched a corpse 
before our eyes," suggested Mrs. Jeffley with 
a fine irony. ** If you are going to smoke, I 
wish you would take your pipe and yourself 
out of the house. You can't help me by 
sitting here, and I don't desire the job of 
nursing two, I can assure you." 

Jack took his pipe and himself into the 
street, as requested, and after paying a visit 
to the doctor, who was still absent, strolled 



152 MITRE COURT. 



along Tower Street, thinking about many- 
matters, and wondering what could have 
wrought such a change in the best httle 
woman on earth. Mentally, he had gone 
back to the day, to the hour, to the place 
where he first saw her. At that precise 
moment Mr. Katzen stopped him. 

" Well met, Mr. Jeffley," said he cheerily. 
*' Though late, accept my heartiest con- 
gratulations." 

"On what?" asked Jack stupidly. He 
had forgotten all about Mr. Gregson and 
Mr. Fulmer, and awoke like one roused 
from sleep to the sight of filthy pavements 
and muddy streets. He had been dreaming, 
with eyes wide open, of a glorious summer's 
evening down at Gravesend, of a pretty girl 
who was passing on to the boat in the com- 
pany of some people he knew. Again he 
could see the river, shining like molten gold, 
flowing away to the sea — the vessel seemed 
enchanted ground. When the girl spoke, to 
his foolish fancy — as in the old fairy tales — 
rubies and pearls dropped from her rosy lips. 
That was the beginning of it, and here was 



A GREAT CONCEPT/ON. 153 



one part of the end : a miserable depressing 
evening in Tower Street, his wife mistress of 
a boarding-house for " all the tag-rag and 
bobtail" that chose to pay for accommo- 
dation, himself asked to get out of his own 
house, and Mr. Katzen congratulating him on 
his disillusion. 

" Oh, come, Mr. Jeffley, you need not be 
so sly and secret with me," laughed the 
Consul. 

"What are you talking about?" asked 
Jack. " What is the row ?" 

" There is no row, so far as I know ; very 
much the contrary, in my opinion. I did not 
hear till to-day you had been promoted to the 
post of general over Deedes' forces, vice 
Colonel Samuel Gregson, cashiered." 

" How did your hear that ?" questioned 
Mr. Jeffley, turning upon the German almost 
fiercely. 

" A thousand pardons !" replied the other ; 
"but I did not conceive you wanted it ob- 
served as a secret. Besides, it can't be, it is 
common property. Everyone who knows 
Deedes, and everybody that knew Gregson, 



154 MITRE COURT. 



is aware you have stepped into a very good 
thing ; but, of course, if you don't like me to 
say so, that is a different matter." 

" I forgot about Deedes," murmured Jack 
meditatively. 

** Yes, you were like a hen who lays an ^%'g, 
and, covering it over with a leaf or bit of straw, 
says to herself, ' No one can ever find it.' 
You meant to eat and relish your slice of luck 
all alone, did you, Mr. Jeffley ? Well, eat 
away ; I do not want to spoil your enjoyment 
of it." 

"You don't understand, Mr. Katzen," said 
Mr. Jeffley. " I had no intention of offend- 
ing you ; only the whole business scarcely 
seems real to me yet." 

*' That is most likely," answered the Consul 
amiably. " It is only bad luck — we feel there 
can be no mistake about." 

" At any rate, I was not prepared for such a 
rise as this," agreed Mr. Jeffley a little awk- 
wardly, " and I am greatly obliged to you for 
your good wishes, and I did not mean, as I 
told you before, any offence — only you took 
me by surprise. How could I tell the 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 155 

matter had got wind already ? It is scarce 
a fortnight since it was first broached to 
me." 

" It is true, anyhow, isn't it ?" 

" Yes, it is quite true," confessed Jack, 
in a tone as if he were acknowledging a 
murder. 

*' That's right ; and now let me tell you 
again I am delighted to hear it. When the 
news was imparted to me, I said to myself, 
' I pant for the hour to arrive when I can take 
my friend by the hand, and speak to him 
the thoughts that are in my heart.' " 

" I am sure I feel greatly obliged, Mr. 
Katzen," said Mr. Katzen's friend, who felt 
nothing of the sort. 

" Obliged ! Am I a monster of ingratitude, 
that I should fail to rejoice when you are 
glad ?" 

" I do not exactly know that I am glad," 
answered Jack. 

" How ! What is this !" exclaimed Mr. 
Katzen. " I thought you never had the 
spleen ; that you in that were different from 
the rest of your countrymen ; that you never 



156 ■ MITRE COURT. 



met trouble half-way, or looked into dark 
corners for it as women peep under their beds 
to seek for concealed burglars." 

Mr. Jeffley made no answer, only walked 
on in sulky silence. To him, Mr. Katzen's 
thoughts on any subject at that moment 
mattered nothing, mattered less than nothing. 
Mr. Katzen could have laughed, did indeed 
laugh inwardly as he kept pace, after his 
fashion, with Jack's long loose stride. He knew 
precisely the subject which at that moment 
was exercising the mind of Messrs. Deedes' 
new manager ; and though he had no grudge 
against Jack, no hatred towards him, rather 
liked the man in fact, and certainly, so far 
as he was capable of respecting— which per- 
haps was not far — did respect many, very 
many points about Mrs. Jeffley's husband — 
possibly he was not quite so sorry as he ought 
to have been, to feel an inward conviction 
that Jack, big fellow though he was, could 
not, while he strode along Eastcheap, get rid 
of the pangs a coward experiences on the eve 
of battle, or, — to put the case less strongly — we 
all feel while waiting for our special dentist to 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 157 

operate without laughing gas or ether on that 
terrible wisdom tooth. 

Jack's frame of mind was not happy, and 
Mr. Katzen knew it. He decided not to 
break the spell by a word. He had a notion 
who would tire first, and so in silence he, 
with his short legs, kept up with Jack's seven 
league boots, smoking a poor little cigarette 
against Jack's capacious briar. 

It was Gracechurch Street, down which 
the Kennington and Brixton 'buses were 
dawdling, which brought them up. At that 
pomt it became necessary to cross, in order 
to go nowhere, or to turn back and retrace 
their steps to Fowkes' Buildings. 

Mr. Jeffley stood, his feet planted on the 
kerbstone, looking across towards Lombard 
Street. 

" Well," he said, " what shall we do ?" 

" If the question is addressed to me, and I 
may take the liberty of replying to it," 
answered Mr. Katzen, " I should suggest 
returning to the warmest and pleasantest 
house in London by the shortest route. 
What do you say ?" 



158 MITRE COURT. 

"All right," agreed Mr. Jeffley with an 
expression of countenance which signified he 
felt everything was wrong. 

Mentally Mr. Katzen shook hands with 
himself, but he spoke no word. 

He had determined Jack should take the 
initiative, which at length almost in despera- 
tion Jack did. 

" Have you offered your congratulations to 
my wife also, Mr. Katzen ?" he asked, 
taking the pipe from his mouth, and making 
a feint of examining it closely. 

" I !" repeated Mr. Katzen. " I have not 
seen Mrs. Jeffley since I heard of your good 
fortune, and, if I had, I should not have 
thought of congratulating her." 

"Why not?" 

" Because I imagined, for some good 
reason, you had not yet told her the great 
news." 

" As a matter of fact, I have not yet told 
her," said Jack ; " but how you came to the 
knowledge I had not, baffles me." 

" Oh, that is quite simple," laughed Mr. 
Katzen. "If you had, she would have told 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 159 

me — for certain she would have told 
me. 

" Yes, I suppose she would," agreed Mr. 
Jeffley bitterly. 

" And I would not forestall your communi- 
cation for the world," proceeded Mr. Katzen ; 
" my principle is never to interfere between 
man and wife — with the joy or the bitterness 
of matrimonial life, not for much money 
would I meddle." 

Few things could have pleased Mr. Jeffley 
more at that moment than to kick the New 
Andalusian Consul across the street. He 
could have done it easily, but he re- 
frained. 

He made no comment even on the wisdom 
and generosity of Mr. Katzen's statement. 

" The little cur, he is always interfering 
and meddling," thought poor Jack — which, 
as has been said before, was a mistake. 

*' Do you know, Mr. Jeffley,' said the Con- 
sul, "that sometimes it seems to me you 
think I am not your friend." 

" That's a queer sort of notion, too," 
answered Mr. Jeffley uneasily. (" Hang the 



i6o MITRE COURT. 



fellow, he can tell even what is passing through 
my mind," he reflected.) 

" It is a queer notion," agreed Mr. Katzen, 
*' very queer — for who should be your friend 
if not a man who is bound to you by ties of 
gratitude and long acquaintance ? I do not 
know why you doubt me — unless it is because 
it was not my good fortune to be born an 
Englishman — but people can't help where 
they are born, and I fancy it does not make 
much difference in reality. If you had first 
seen the light in Germany, you would have 
been just as honest, as straightforward, 
as unselfish, and as kind as you are 
now." 

Mr. Jeffley did not believe that he would 
have been anything of the sort, but he could 
scarcely say so to a German ; further, the 
implied flattery was pleasant. Though he 
made a wry face the while, he swallowed it, 
not wholly reluctantly. 

" Anyhow, whether you think me your 
friend or not," went on Mr. Katzen, " I am 
going to take the liberty of one, and give you 
a small piece of advice. Tell your wife of 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. i6i 

your excellent fortune before anybody else 
has the chance." 

" I was only waiting till I saw how things 
went on," explained Jack Jeffley weakly. 

" Don't wait, then — don't wait an hour, a 
minute. You can't go on hiding such a light 
under a bushel ; and if I understand anything 
of your dear wife's nature — and I flatter my- 
self I do understand much — it would hurt 
her to hear so excellent a piece of good 
news from strangers, instead of from one who 
is her all-in-all." 

Once again the desire to do Mr. Katzen 
some bodily injury was strong in Jack's heart, 
but he could not deny the wisdom of his 
friend's advice. 

" It's truth, if the devil spoke it," he mut- 
tered to himself. " Supposing Mrs. J. did 
hear of this from anybody else, there would 
be the deuce and all to pay." 

" Good news is not long of telling," he 
answered, with a poor assumption of cheer- 
fulness, " and I will get mine off my mind to- 
night." 

" Do, whenever you go in, and then I can 

VOL. II. ^O 



l62 MITRE COURT. 



felicitate her with an easy mind. It does not 
seem but the other evening when I met you 
and Scott in this very street, and we all went 
in together, and I asked you to rejoice 
with me. Now, again, we can all rejoice 
together." 

" Thank you, it is very kind of you," said 
Mr. Jeffley, in a tone almost of relief. " It 
is a great rise for a man like me, Mr. 
Katzen, I am not ashamed to confess — a 
wonderful rise, so wonderful that I some- 
times feel it is almost too big for me ; but I 
dare say I shall get used to my promotion in 
time. Talking of last Whit Monday, you 
took a bit of supper with us then. Will you 
have a morsel of something with us to-night ? 
The missus is rather upset about Billy — the 
child is ailing — and I was just wondering, 
when I met you, what I could buy that my 
poor wife would fancy. She's regularly upset, 
and you know when there's illness about she 
never thinks of herself." 

" That means madam is in a fine temper," 
thought Mr. Katzen, " and this poor wretch 
has been having a taste of its quality," 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 163 

" Don't you know what to get for the 
kind soul ?" he said aloud. " I can tell you 
— oysters. Let us order some ; or, if you 
like to go on and get your little talk over, I 
will see they are sent round." 

" There is no such hurry as all that comes 
to," answered Jack, deferring the evil moment; 
" we'll walk together. Oysters — yes, a capital 
thought of yours, Mr. Katzen. I am really 
very much obliged to you." 

But the food has still to be invented 
which could have propitiated Mrs. Jeffley 
that night. She was very angry about 
Jack's offering ; it was just like him to go 
spending a lot of money when she had 
ordered a good supper for him — a nice veal 
pie cold, and hot sausages and mashed 
potatoes — and now it was all wasted. 

" It's no use my trying to save, and 
manage, and make things comfortable on 
little, when I've a husband who " thinks 
nothing of spending as much on a meal as 
would keep us all for a day. It is nonsense 
saying you bought oysters for me, because 
you know I could not touch one of them." 

30—2 



i64 MITRE COURT. 

"Oh! yes, you will, Mrs. Jeffley," interposed 
Mr. Katzen ; "you will come and sit .down 
with us comfortably, and make our pleasure 
complete." 

" That is so very likely," retorted Mrs, 
Jeffley, with scathing irony, " and the doctor 
just gone after leaving orders Mina must have 
linseed poultices, and her feet in mustard and 
water, and not a soul to see to anything but 
myself. I might as well be a galley slave." 

" Don't say that, Maria," remonstrated 
Mr. Jeffley, " and don't be putting yourself 
out so much about Billy, more particularly 
now you know there's nothing worse the 
matter with her than a bad cold. Do sit 
down like a good creature, and listen to what 
I have got to tell you." 

" I dare say, and leave the child tossing 
about all by herself, with her face as red as 
fire." 

" I will sit with her, Mrs. Jeffley," said 
Frank Scott, who earnestly desired to get 
out of the way while Mr. Jeffley imparted 
his news. 

" Well, thank you if you will — she's 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 165 

always quiet with you. I'll be up in a few 
minutes, when I have heard this wonderful 
story. No, I'll not sit down, Mr. Katzen — I 
can hear standing, and am not likely to be 
kept so long. Now, Mr. Jeffley, what is it ?" 

" I have got a rise at the office " 

** Oh, indeed ! it has been long enough 
coming. I hope it is something worth talking 
about." 

" Very well worth talking about — they have 
made me manager." 

" And what have they made Mr. Greg- 
son : 

" Mr. Gregson has left." 

Mrs. Jeffley opened the sideboard drawer 
and shut it ; then she looked into the 
cellaret, as though in search of something ; 
then she went on her knees and examined 
the shelves with great attention. 

" Won't you say you are glad, dear ?" 
asked Mr. Jeffley, in a tone which touched 
even Mr. Katzen. 

" Glad !" he interposed. " Of course she 
is glad — too glad to speak ; is it not so, Mrs. 
Jeffley ?" 



1 66 MITRE COURT. 



" Oh, I don't know," answered that lady, 
rising from her inspection of the sideboard. 
'* I don't think much of these sort of things. 
When people once begin chopping and 
changing, there is no telling where they may 
end. Mr. Gregson has gone now ; likely 
as not Mr. Jeffley may go next." 

Having uttered which genial remark, Mrs. 
Jeffley marched out of the room, leaving the 
door wide open behind her. 

Mr. Katzen did not look at Jack, neither 
did Jack look at Mr. Katzen ; the pair swal- 
lowed their oysters almost in silence — they 
had both been snubbed. Nevertheless, they 
did ample justice to their viands. Ever 
since the new dignity was thrust upon him, 
Jack had been " off his feed ;" now his 
wife knew, he made up for lost time. Mr. 
Katzen could not remember ever having seen 
him compass such a meal, and mentally con- 
gratulated himself upon the excellent advice 
he had given Mr. Jeffley, 

" She's as angry as she can be," he thought, 
" but the worst is over." 

He did not guess that Mrs. Jeffley was 



A GREAT CONCEPTION. 167 

keeping a very nasty rap over the knuckles 
in reserve for him as he went upstairs to bed. 

" Captain Hassell is back," she said, stop- 
ping him at the top of the first flight. 

" And how is the worthy Captain ?" asked 
Mr. Katzen. 

" He seems well enough. He wants his 
money, though." 

" Naturally." 

" He can have it, I suppose ?" 

''Without a doubt." 

" Now, that is a nice sort of pillow to give 
a man to lay an aching head on," considered 
Mr. Katzen, as he betook himself to rest ; 
*' but wait a little, my very dear madam — you 
wait a while." 





CHAPTER VII. 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 




FTER all, Mr. Katzen did not pass 
a sleepless nig-ht, even on that un- 
easy pillow. 
As he truly said, he knew Mrs. Jeffley 
pretty well, and understood she had merely 
dealt him this back-handed blow because she 
was angry with her husband. 

"' And if he does not cut her claws soon 
they will grow so long as to become danger- 
ous," decided Mr. Katzen. " Bah ! she is as 
great a baby as a child that thumps the table 
because he has knocked his head. Anyhow, 
my friend, you forget one thing — it is you who 
will have to settle with the Captain, not I ; 
and these matrimonial amenities of yours 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 169 

grow a little too frequent and demonstrative. 
Years do not appear to improve the temper 
any more than the complexion. But why 
waste time in considering such matters ? 
Good-night — good-night, Maria; may the 
dawn find you in a happier mood !" 

Whether the dawn did so or not, Mr. Kat- 
zen never knew, for he saw nothing of his 
landlady ere proceeding to Mitre Court. 
Jack had gone to St. Dunstan's Hill early, 
perhaps to get out of the way of the possible 
tail-end of last night's shower ; but Mrs. 
Childs — her face in its early morning state of 
astonishing cleanliness, and her person girt 
round with an apron white as Sophia could 
brush and boil and blue it — was well in 
evidence. From her he ascertained that 
the " dear child had never closed its eyes 
till nigh upon five o'clock, and that poor 
missus was so worn out she — Mrs. Childs — 
had persuaded her not to get up, but just try 
to swallow a cup of hot tea and rest herself a 
bit, which, goodness knows," finished the 
worthy woman, " is a thing she doesn't 
often do." 



I70 MITRE COURT. 



" There are not many like her," remarked 
Mr, Katzen, with more truth than might 
appear on the surface. 

" There's nobody hke her, sir," amended 
Mrs. Childs — to which the new Consul replied, 
in gutturals deep with feeling : 

" Indeed, you are quite right." 

He had three things in his mind that day, 
however, which perhaps excused less con- 
sideration of the best of women's virtues and 
anxieties than Mrs. Childs insisted were her 
meed. He wanted to trap his clerk, and he 
wished also to see Mr. Brisco. Further, he 
determined to lose no time in shoving the 
New Andalusian loan from shore. The first 
idea which occurred to him when he heard 
the news of Captain Hassell's advent, was 
that it would be absolute folly for him to 
delay proceedings till he heard from head- 
quarters. He could do a great deal at once, 
and he rneant to do it ; but before he did 
anything he must get some money. 

Altogether, Mr. Katzen had enough to 
employ his brain without thinking much about 
Mrs. Jeffley. While that lady assumed the 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 171 

character of guardian angel, it had been all 
very well to turn to her in trouble and appeal 
to her as a friend, but things were changed 
a little. Of late Mrs. Jeffley seemed more 
captious than formerly. 

" A woman should never show much of her 
teeth, save in a smile," was one of Mr. Kat- 
zen's axioms, and on this especial morning he 
added another : "If she o^oes on losingf her 
temper she will lose her lodgers ; and then, 
what a life she will lead her Jack !" 

The Consul arrived at his office before that 
slothful clerk, and was rewarded, almost be- 
fore he had opened the morning letters, by 
some fees, which proved most acceptable. 

He had the pleasure also of hearing they 
might have been in his pocket on the previous 
afternoon, had anyone chanced to be in the 
way to receive them. Rare, if not rich, were 
the few that came in his way hitherto, and 
Mr. Katzen felt, not unnaturally, inclined to 
regard this visitor as a " lucky foot." 

The Consul was most affable, and talked 
long and exhaustively on the subject of New 
Andalusia. He wanted to get his hand in, to 



172 MITRE COURT. 



warm to his work ; and finding the Captain — 
who required papers — knew a great deal 
more about the land of promise than himself, 
obtained an amount of information concerning 
harbours, tides, produce, rivers, and capabili- 
ties, which he made very good use of later on. 

More than once during the conference it 
occurred to Mr. Katzen that since Whitsun- 
tide he had been somewhat neglectful of fair 
Andalusia — that, running morning, noon, and 
night, after a shadow he never could catch, he 
had missed an actual substance close at hand. 

What is a man to do, though, when he has 
no money, and needs it ? 

Like Esau, Mr. Katzen would often have 
sold any number of birthrights for that 
modern equivalent of a mess of pottage, a 
five-pound note. Who, knowing what Lon- 
don is to a man needing money, and lacking 
it, could greatly blame him ? Yet, sitting 
listening to the voice of this unconscious 
charmer, Mr. Katzen greatly blamed himself. 

Here was a preacher who, all unknown to 
himself, wrought a great, if not very efficacious, 
change in a man by the power of one single 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 173 

sermon. Never, for ever hereafter, Mr. 
Katzen resolved, would he pay a debt to 
discharge which he had to neglect his business 
or to stint or embarrass himself. It was abject 
folly. No ; he could see how utterly wrong 
his half-hearted policy of right had been. 
Paying debts could by no process of human 
reasoning be considered to have done him 
any good ; quite the contrary, it had done 
him harm, stultified him. The more a man 
pays, the more he is expected to pay. If he 
is eventually to be hung, it may be just as 
well for a cow as a calf; the cow's death 
won't make the rope feel a bit heavier round 
his neck than the calfs. When his visitor 
took his departure Mr. Katzen breathed a 
sigh of relief, just as one who has long been 
groping through darkness gasps at the sight 
of light. 

Heretofore the person did not live who 
could accuse Mr. Katzen — impartially — of 
being honest. Yet hitherto he had dis- 
charged a few unnecessary debts. For the 
future he meant to reform his ways, and 
consider no one but himself. After all, to 



174 MITRE COURT. 



whom ought he to be kinder ? Who would 
consider Karl Katzen if he failed to do so ? 

With those fees in his pocket, which he 
intended to spend entirely for the benefit of 
Karl Katzen, that gentleman, after partaking 
of a modest luncheon, betook himself to 
Botolph Lane. 

He concluded Mr. Brisco was not at home, 
but he found Miss Weir in her accustomed 
place, stitching away as usual. A person 
much less astute than the Consul for New 
Andalusia must have seen that the girl looked 
weary and worn, and that her eyes bore traces 
either of sad thought or of recent sorrowful 
tears, 

" And after this long time, how is my 
Abigail T asked Mr. Katzen, holding Miss 
Weir's hand in his as he put the question. 

" Haven't a notion," replied Miss Weir, 
" Who is she ?" 

" Why, you, my dear darling — who else ?" 
" But, you see, I am not your Abigail," 
" You will be though — some day." 
"Were I you, I think I would not forecast 
the future. Remember, there's ' many a slip 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 17$ 

'twixt the cup and the Hp/ and I have still a 
voice in the matter." 

" So you have, and we shall hear it when 
you say, ' I will take this man for better, for 
worse, 

"Whatman?" 

" Why, me — Karl Katzen." 

" No, Karl Katzen ; I think not." 

" But I am sure so." 

" And I am sure — not." 

"Well, as I said before, we shall see." 

"Yes, as /said before, we shall see." 

" Let me think, my lofe ; it is over six 
months since we agreed to defer the second 
reading of a certain bill." 

" And now I propose that we take it as 
read," returned the girl. " Let it lie on the 
table." 

Mr. Katzen laughed. " I do not know 
much about your ways of proceeding in your 
House of Commons, but I fancy you have 
somehow got mixed. Let us, however, as 
you propose, let it lie for the present." 

" For ever," interpolated Abigail. 

" For the present," repeated Mr. Katzen 



176 MITRE COURT. 



firmly ; " till I have finished making my big 
fortune, and can claim my bride." 

'^ You have not made your big fortune 
yet, then ?" asked Abigail. 

"No, not yet; but it won't be long first, 
and then you will come to me. Oh yes ; 
you will come to me." 

" Time enough to talk of that when you 
bave bought your title and your castle on the 
Rhine," replied the girl. 

" Ah, you say so because you do not 
believe I shall ever get either ; but you 
mistake — you make a great mistake, my 
lofe." 

Apparently Abigail did not consider this 
statement required any comment, for she 
only gave a little laugh and went on with 
her work. Mr. Katzen watched her for a 
minute or two. He felt it pleasant thus to 
watch her : so round, so trim, so compact, so 
complete a young maiden is not often to be 
met. Her cheap dress fitted her to perfec- 
tion ; her cuffs and collar were miracles of 
whiteness ; she wore a coquettish apron, in 
one of the pockets of which she carried her 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 177 

scissors and a reel of cotton ; in and out 
glanced her busy needle ; the room was 
warm and comfortable. Spite of the poor 
furniture and the dull light of a winter's day, 
which held no sign or promise of sunshine, 
there was a wonderful depth of peace and 
sense of home pervading the atmosphere. 
Mr. Katzen felt he could have sat on for 
ever, regarding that young face, generally so 
piquant, now so grave and quiet ; listening to 
the slow tick-tick of the old eight-day clock, 
and the rustling of the fire as the hot, glowing 
embers burnt away. 

Something was missing, however ; some- 
thing had changed. For a time he felt only 
vaguely conscious of a want, then he began 
dimly to wonder what the place lacked. 

Suddenly it occurred to him. 

" Where is the canary, Abigail T^ he asked. 

" Dead." 

" Is that what you have been crying 
about ?" 

She nodded. 

" Don't cry any more, then ; I will get you 
another." 

VOL. II. 31 



178 MITRE COURT. 



" Won't have It, thank you," she answered. 

" Why not ?" 

" It would not be the same, and I should 
hate to hear it." 

" Nonsense 1" 

'' No nonsense at all ; sense, fact, truth." 

" What pet shall I get you, then ?" asked 
Mr. Katzen. 

" None, if you please ;" and there ensued 
another silence. 

" Where did you buy that canary, Abigail?" 
inquired Mr. Katzen at last. 

" Nowhere ; I did not buy it." 

" How did you come by it, then ?" 

" It was given to me." 

" Who gave it to you." 

" A friend. If you must know." 

" Of course I must know. That young 
man round the corner ?" 

" Yes, that young man round the corner." 

" Which corner ?" 

" Oh, you can take your choice." 

'* I can't have any young man from round 
the corner visiting us when ^you become 
Baroness von Katzensteln." 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 179 

" I fancy there won't be many corners, or 
squares either, about your castle." 

" You saucy girl ! Come, may I give you 
a canary ? Say yes." 

** No ; I will never have another canary." 

"Will you give me a kiss, then ?" 

" Have you gone mad, Mr. Katzen ?' 
asked Abigail, in amazement. 

" Only with love for you, my dear." 

" You had better get sane, then, at 
once." 

" Let me give you a kiss," he repeated, 
making a movement as if to come to her. 

" Stay where you are," said Abigail de- 
terminedly, laying down her work and look- 
ing straight across the table at Mr. Katzen. 

"Stay where I am, darling! Why Y' 

" Because, though I can take a joke as 
well as anybody, I am not going to take 
that:' 

" No ? Nor give it .?" 

" Nor give it." 

" We are very particular all of a sudden. 
Didn't we give one kiss, just one little one, 
to the donor of the dead canary }" 

31—2 



l8o MITRE COURT. 



" We did not." 

" Or to our organist ?" 

*^ No ; or to the sexton, or the clerk, or 
the rector, or the poHceman, or the sweep — 
there ! As you will have it, I have never 
kissed a man, nor has any man ever kissed 
me, since my father died, and I was scarcely 
ten years old then. Kiss !" she added 
bitterly. " Who have I ever had to kiss me, 
or be kissed by me ?" 

And with a strangled sob she took up her 
work again, and, though her eyes were full 
of tears, resumed her sewing. 

It had been on the tip of Mr. Katzen's 
tongue to answer, " Here you have one most 
devoted, ready at this moment to kiss and be 
kissed ;" but he wisely refrained, and said : 

" Tell me about your father, Abby ; I 
have never heard you mention him before." 

" There is nothing to tell," she answered. 

" Talk, then," he urged, as if tenderly 
sympathetic ; " it will relieve your heart. 
Who and what was he .'*" 

Miss Weir brushed the tears from her 
eyes and looked at Mr. Katzen, while a very 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 



demon of mischief seemed dancing about her 
face. 

" He was poor, but honest," she said de- 
murely. 

"If honest, he would certainly remain 
poor," commented the Consul ; " that goes 
without saying. But proceed, my Abigail — 
your narrative is charming." 

" There is an end of it, at any rate," she 
replied. 

" That can hardly be, when it is scarce 
begun," remarked Mr. Katzen. " Rather a 
case, perhaps, of ' hole in the ballad,' eh ? 
But never mind the hole — go on, fair 
maiden." 

The fair maiden shook her head. 

" Nothing more to go on with." 

" Are you quite, quite certain ? For 
instance, did your papa, so poor, so honest, 
die comfortably in his bed ?" 

Abigail looked at Mr. Katzen in surprise^ 
then light dawned upon her. 

" Oh, T understand," she said. " Whether 
my father died comfortably or not I cannot 
tell you ; but he died in his bed." 



i82 MITRE COURT. 



" Of what ?" 

" Consumption, the doctors styled his 
disease," answered Abby. " Other people 
called it a broken heart." 

" Heavens, child, what a gift you possess ! 
How you rivet my interest ! And your 
beloved mother — did she die of a broken 
heart too ?" 

" That I cannot tell you." 

"Her daughter, so beloved, was not beside 
her at the supreme moment ?" 

Miss Weir worked steadily on as though 
she had not heard. 

" Abigail," pleaded Mr. Katzen, " I am 
distracted with curiosity. Where were you 
when Providence saw fit — for our mutual 
benefit — to leave you an orphan ?" 

" You have heard enough for one day — for 
many days," answered the girl, 'so provok- 
ingly that Mr. Katzen knew it was useless to 
try to pump her further. 

" Not enough, but more than I have heard 
during all these long years. When we are 
one, my love, you will tell me everything ; you 
will keep no secret from your adoring Karl ?" 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 183 

" When we are one, certainly not." 

'' You will even whisper to me the name 
of the present non-deserving young man ?" 

*' What non-deserving young man ?" 

" The young man who does not seem to 
know what lips like yours were made for, the 
young man you go out to meet, and that you 
walk with sometimes." 

It was an arrow shot at a venture, but it 
found the mark. All the colour faded out of 
Abigail's face, and then rushed back in a 
brilliant crimson tide that mantled cheeks and 
brow. 

" Who told you that — who dared to tell 
you that .'*" she asked, her shield broken 
down for once. 

" As for daring, my dear lofe, there is no 
law which hinders tongues wagging ; and for 
the rest, if pretty girls will walk with men 
who are not their fathers, or grandfathers, or 
uncles, or brothers, wise people can only draw 
one inference " 

" Mr. Katzen," interrupted this pretty girl, 
** I insist upon your letting me know who it 
is that has said such a thing about me." 



1 84 MITRE COURT. 

" You insist, do you ? Say so again, 
darling — it fills me with rapture to see you 
so angry, so moved. Would I could fix that 
rich colour in your cheek ! What rose might 
hope to surpass its damask ! — but there, your 
look changes, it grows fierce almost. Calm 
yourself, sweet one, your wish shall be 
gratified. It was a little bird of the air, a 
tiny creature no bigger than my thumbs 
brought me the news." 

" Pity it was not better employed," said 
Abigail. 

" How could it have been better employed 
than in bringing tidings of the loved one to 
the lover ?" 

" Mr. Katzen, I am getting tired of all 
this. You are not my lover." 

" But I am, and you cannot alter that 
fact !" 

" I am not in love with you, at all 
events." 

"At present, perhaps not, the greater pity 
for mie. It will come all in good time, though. 
I do not hurry you. Have out your foolish 
fancies, and your baby dreams, and after- 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 185 

wards — but why that sudden movement, 
what is wrong ? Where is my beauty 
going ?" 

" I do not know where your beauty may 
be going, but as you cannot or will not talk 
sense, /am going upstairs." 

"Wait a moment — one moment, dear 
Abby. Am I to be left here in sole charge, 
with only the old clock for company, while I 
wait the return of Mr. Brisco ?" 

" Mr. Brisco has not been out to-day," re- 
plied Abigail, " as you could have known 
long ago, if you had taken the trouble to 
inquire for him." 

" And did I not inquire for him ? Is it 
possible ? My faith, what an omission ! 
Come back, and forgive your Karl. No ? 
Ah ! One day you will be sorry for the way 
you are treating me. Never mind, I shall 
not prove implacable. It is all the fault of 
that naughty young man you meet when you 
think nobody is looking. By-the-bye, what 
is his name ? I have forgotten it for the 
moment." 

" The same little bird who told you one 



i86 MITRE COURT. 



Story must be quite able to tell you another," 
retorted Abigail. " Ask him, and do not 
come here again troubling me, please." 

*' Never again ?" 

" Never." 

" It is impossible that you can mean that. 

A nature so sweet " But when he arrived 

at this point, Abigail disappeared. 

As he followed, in order to make his way 
to Mr. Brisco's office, he heard the sound of 
light young feet flying up the back staircase 
to one of the smaller rooms in the old house. 

" She runs well," he thought, " and there 
is temper in her step. I have struck oil by 
accident at last. She meets some one, and I 
shall have to discover who it is. And now 
for grim Old Mortality." 

He knocked at the door of that narrow 
apartment on the ground-floor previously 
mentioned, and entered. 

" Is that you, Mr. Katzen ?" said Mr. 
Brisco, stretching out his hand with some 
show of cordiality. The welcome was warmer 
than usual, but the room cold. Involuntarily 
the Consul shivered. The absence of all 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 187 

signs of a fire seemed to intensify the misery 
of a bleak, miserable winter's day. How 
could that old man, with no blood in his 
body, and no warm clothing on his back, 
endure the temperature which tried Mr. Kat- 
zen, though his top-coat was thick and new, 
and himself well nourished ? 

*' You feel chilly, I am afraid ?" remarked 
Mr. Brisco. 

" Not particularly," fibbed Mr. Katzen ; 
" only I come from a tete-a-tete with Miss 
Weir, and after the warmth of her chamber 
this atmosphere does not strike me as torrid. 
Well — and how have you been this long 
time .'*" he went on, anxious to avert the usual 
remark he had learnt to know so well anent 
the extravagance of large fires, of Abigail's 
fatal fondness for too much heat, and the 
modern craze of sitting moping over the 
hearth instead of going out for a brisk 
walk. 

" See me," Mr. Brisco was wont to say by 
way of brilliant and seductive example, " I 
never feel cold. In the winter I sleep only 
under one blanket. It is the rarest thing for 



l88 MITRE COURT. 



me to wear a top-coat. I do not indulge in 
stimulants, and where could you find a 
stronger man, or one who enjoys better 
health ?" 

" As if life," thought Mr. Katzen, " were 
worth having on the terms. Could I suppose 
for one moment that when I get to be as old 
as Mr. Brisco, I should have to sit fireless and 
foodless, with a blue nose and numbed hands 
and an empty stomach, I would make at once 
for the next world by the nearest door." 

" I don't believe you would," answered Mr. 
Bernberg, to whom he once made this remark. 
" I have a notion no world that lacks German 
beer and Rhine wine would tempt you across 
its frontier, my friend." 

" How have you been this long time } 
'twere fitter to ask," said Mr. Brisco, in 
answer to the Consul's question. "It mat- 
ters little how I am ; but for one rising and 
prospering like yourself, it matters a good 
deal." 

" Yes, I am prospering," confessed Mr. 
Katzen modestly. " I find I shall make a 
big thing of my position." 



TN THE OLD HOUSE. 1S9 

" No one can be more glad to hear you say 
so than I. It is very good of you to remem- 
ber that such people as Abigail and myself 
exist in this out-of-the-world spot." 

" There is no spot which is so dear to me in 
all the world as Botolph Lane, and no house 
in Botolph Lane that seems so homelike as 
this old mansion." 

" Yet you never lived in it !" said Mr. 
Brisco. 

" I never slept in it, but live ! Gott, if I 
haven't lived here, I have lived nowhere ! 
How often has the snow lain in the court- 
yard in my knowledge of the place ; what 
would I not now give to feel the sun of a 
summer's afternoon burning my left shoulder, 
as it used to do where I sat writing upstairs ! 
Was I not wont to watch the dingy trees in 
St. Botolph's graveyard putting out fresh 
leaves, clothing themselves again as in their 
youth with tenderest, divinest green ; and 
when the green departed, and the leaves grew 
brown and dry, and dropped sadly to the 
ground, did I not mourn with the trees, for 
I felt the drear November days were at hand 



igo MITRE COURT. 



when good fortune never seemed to remember 
me — never at all !" 

Mr. Brisco did not answer. Perhaps 
through his mind also there passed at that 
moment a procession of the seasons he too 
had seen come and go since he entered the 
black and white marble hall, and took up his 
lonely life, keeping a door closed between 
himself and the world, of which the real door 
he locked and barred each night was but a 
symbol. 

The years during which he dwelt apart had 
come and the years had gone, and what he 
had made of and felt in them was known so 
far but to God, for man could scarcely even 
guess at the struggling and miserable history 
they contained. He was not, however, in 
the habit of playing at the game of capping 
sentiment. If Mr. Katzen expected to seduce 
him into such a sport, he was greatly mis- 
taken. 

" At all events," he said, " good fortune 
seems now to have taken up her abode with 
you, though not here." 

" But I want her with me here, where be- 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 191 

fore she was always flit-flitting like a butter- 
fly, but could scarce make up her mind ta 
settle. She seems a stranger to me in Mitre 
Court. I have been thinking matters over. 
I will take those two rooms most beautiful. 
You will meet me in the rent." 

" But," interposed Mr. Brisco, " what as 
regards Mitre Court ? You do not want to 
have two places on your hands." 

" Did I wish, I could let my present 
offices to-morrow, and dispose of my posses- 
sions at a fair profit," answered Mr. Katzen, 
who understood his old landlord in many 
respects thoroughly. 

"You are a wonderful person," said Mr. 
Brisco, half in doubt, half in admiration. 

" But I do not want to get rid of them yet, 
at all events till I can see how matters are 
meaning to go. It may be I shall need 
them as well as your offices, and more too. 
Meantime, I desire worthy Sir Christopher's 
dining and drawing-room. People would say 
I was unwise to say this frankly, but you 
are far too old a friend to take advantage 
of my youth and inexperience. Now, 



192 MITRE COURT. 



Mr. Brisco, in a word, what is your lowest 
figure ?" 

" I am sorry," answered Mr. Brisco, 
but " 

"We agreed just now," interposed the 
New Andalusian Consul, " you were not to 
try and enhance their value. Surely you 
would not drive a hard bargain with your 
long tenant Katzen V 

Mr. Brisco did not commit himself on this 
point ; he only said : 

" Unfortunately, I have let the offices." 

" Let the offices ! — since when T 

"The negotiation has been proceeding for 
some time, but the agreement was not signed 
till a fortnight aeo." 

" The offices are not occupied, though," 
persisted Mr. Katzen, who did not wish to 
believe the evidence of his ears. 

" No ; the tenants do not enter into pos- 
session till the middle of December." 

"Who are they?" 

" A firm of foreign wine merchants." 

" I'd have you careful about your rent/ 
said Mr. Katzen, whose disbelief in the sol- 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 193 

vency of foreigners was almost as great as 
Mr. Jeffley's. 

Mr. Brisco smiled ironically. 

" I shall have my rent," he answered ; " it 
is guaranteed." 

" Well, well," sighed the Consul, " I sup- 
pose I ought to be glad, but I feel disap- 
pointed. Still, I am glad ; you stand in 
need of some good fortune, if anyone did. I 
hope it has come to you, too, at last." 

" Think of all the time those offices have 
stood empty/' said Mr. Brisco, declining the 
suggestion of comfort. 

" That is true, that is what my friend 
Jeffley remarks — takes all the gilt off the 
gingerbread." 

" Never much gilt at the best," added Mr. 
Brisco. 

" You find it often confoundedly hard 
work to make the two ends meet, I should 
imagine." 

" I have never complained, have I ?" re- 
torted Mr. Brisco. 

" No ; that makes it seem all the harder. 
Though I have said little, I have thought 

VOL. II. 32 



194 MITRE COURT. 

about you much. In fact, one reason why I 
called round to-day was to make a little pro- 
position that would put a few pounds in your 
pocket." 

" That is very kind of you," 

" No, it is selfish. My plan was, if you 
could have let me those rooms, to ask a little 
personal help from you. I could not re- 
munerate you perhaps quite as I ought, but 
' little fish are sweet,' once again to quote 
the excellent Jefi^ey. It would have been 
more convenient, of course, if I had been on 
the premises, but, upon my honour, I don't see 
what is to prevent your coming to Mitre 
Court." 

" There exists no physical impossibility 
about the matter, certainly," agreed Mr. 
Brisco, who sometimes liked to play an ac- 
quaintance as an angler plays a fish. 

" Then come to me for a few hours each 
day," said Mr. Katzen eagerly, "We'll not 
quarrel about terms, I feel sure. It shall 
be what you like, salary — commission — any- 
thing!" 

" But first tell me exactly what you mean," 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 195 

urged Mr, Brisco ; "for example, 'a few 
hours a day ' ?" 

" Just as long as you like." 

" Very liberal on your part ; still, I suppose, 
a phrase not to be too literally interpreted. 
I might like not to go at all ; if so, what 
then ?" 

" Ah ! you laugh," suggested Mr. Katzen. 

" I am not laughing, indeed ; be a little 
more explicit. For instance, at what time in 
the morning would it gratify you to see me ?" 

" I should try to suit your convenience — 
ten, shall we say ?" 

" Very well, say ten. Then, should you 
lock up the office, or would that duty devolve 
•on me ?" 

" I am afraid, as a rule, I should have to 
ask you to lock up." 

" About six ?" 

" Generally." 

"■ Let us say six. Now, during the day 
when could I be off duty ?" 

" Mostly when I myself was in." 

" You might find it difficult to say when 
that would be." 

%2 — 1 



'96 MITRE COURT. 



" Of course, I could not be quite exact. I 
am in sometimes for hours, and sometimes not 
for ten minutes." 
. " Yes." 

^'Virtually, you know, there is but little 
to do." 

" Virtually, what you mean is that I should 
be your clerk." 

" Surely such old friends need not put the 
matter in that way i*" 

" Surely such old friends need not beat 
about the bush." 

" I wanted to avoid giving umbrage." 

" That was considerate, certainly. Still, 
Mr. Katzen, however much you choose to 
disguise the pill, it is there. You knew I 
should think it a pill, or you would not 
amiably have covered it with so much jam. 
If I took your pill, spite of all the jam, I 
should taste the bitter. If I had wanted a 
situation, do you think I am so infirm, men- 
tally or physically, I could not have obtained 
one long ago ?" 

" I make no doubt you could have obtained 
one," admitted Mr. Katzen, " though why you 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 197 

did not wish to increase your income by ob- 
taining it, baffles me." 

Mr. Brisco smiled, not pleasantly. 

" You do not read your Bible as attentively 
a.s you do the newspaper, I am afraid," he 
said, "or you would remember that Solomon 
states positively, ' Better is a dry morsel and 
quietness therewith, than an house full of 
sacrifices with strife.' Solomon was a very 
wise man." 

" Faith ! I think I'd rather take my chance 
with the sacrifices than the dry morsel," re- 
torted Mr. Katzen. 

" I dare say you would — I think it's ex- 
tremely likely you would," said Mr. Brisco, so 
nastily that Mr. Katzen thought it expedient 
to retreat as soon as he could without rude- 
ness. 





CHAPTER VIII, 



THE TIDE TURNS. 




[AVING parted on such terms, 
Mr. Katzen, who meanwhile had 
triumphantly got rid of his clerk, 
felt considerably surprised to see Mr. Brisco 
walk into his office early the next morn- 
ing. 

" He has thought better of it," he con- 
sidered, " or perhaps the new party has cried 
off about the rooms." 

" Sit down, sit down, Mr. Brisco," he said 
aloud ; *' I shall be at leisure in a minute. 
Look at the Times' 

Mr. Brisco accepted the offer, and for a 
while silence reigned, broken only by the 
swift movement of Mr. Katzen's paper-knife 



THE TIDE TURNS. 199 

as he cut open his letters, and then by the 
crackle caused by rapidly turning the sides. 
At length he finished. 

" Now, Mr. Brisco !" he exclaimed cheerily, 
" to what fortunate chance am I indebted for 
the honour of this visit ?" 

" In the first place," was the answer, " I 
come to apologize. I really believe you meant 
well by me yesterday." 

"And to myself," added Mr. Katzen. 

" I think your offer was a mistake. I think 
all such offers are mistakes ; but I lay no 
claim to infallibility." 

" Surely that cannot be," said the Consul^ 
and he grinned. 

" Perhaps," admitted Mr. Brisco, smiling 
in spite of himself; " we none of us know 
ourselves." 

Mr. Katzen thought he knew himself pretty 
well, but he did not say so. 

" I do not want a situation, if only for this 
reason," went on Mr. Brisco — " the man has 
still to be born with whom I could agree, 
w ere I servant and he master. But, as I re- 
marked before, I believe you meant your 



2bo MITRE COURT. 



offer in good faith, and I ought not perhaps 
to have been so curt over it." 

" Be sure I took no offence. It is long 
since I understood you," answered Mr. Kat- 
zen. " You have a right to your own notions. 
Who should know your affairs and feelings as 
well as yourself ? I had best say no more 
on the subject, because, were I to tell you 
what passed through my mind besides my 
personal advantage when I made the sugges- 
tion, I should run the risk of angering you 
again." 

" Yes, I fancy we had better drop the 
matter," replied Mr. Brisco. " Now I have 
come to ask your advice, you will not refuse 
it, though I was a churl yesterday." 

" I deny the ' churl,' but let that pass. 
How can my poor advice serve you ?" 

" A friend, a — a person I know, is anxious 
to make a little money." 

" Heavens ! He does not stand alone — 
but I interrupt you." 

" Some time since, he bought a small 
property — not to trouble you with too many 
details — that is likely to eat into the bulk of 



THE TIDE TURNS. 



his available capital, and now what he wants 
is to utilize the trifle that will remain — to 
turn it to the best account." 

"How much has he to spare ?" 

" A few — a very few hundred pounds." 

" Which must not be lost ?" 

" Exactly." 

" Then he can do nothing speculative ; and 
it puzzles me to imagine how under such cir- 
cumstances a fortune is to be made. In love 
and war, and commerce, ' Nothing venture, 
nothing have,' holds true." 

" But you, Mr. Katzen, have managed to 
make money ?" 

" Not much, so far." 

" You have been able, at all events, to 
keep moving, and deny yourself very little 
you desire." 

*' I ! Why, I have had nothing as yet I 
desired. It is true I have had the mere 
necessaries of life, because I am not a person 
to do without my dinner, so long as a dinner 
can be got for cash or credit ; besides, I have 
always been venturing, and my ventures 
brought me into connection with people who 



MITRE COURT. 



put good little trifles in my way. I always 
keep moving — if I am not fishing I am 
mending my net." 

" Then you think nothing is to be gained 
without risk ?" 

" Very little." 

*' Yet some men do grow rich without 
running risks." 

" I know how that is done too. With 
much interest I have watched the rise and 
progress of good, steady young men — men 
who at twenty have old heads on their 
shoulders — who determine to get on, and 
who do get on. A young man of this sort, for 
example, saves and stints in cheap lodgings ; 
he takes no pleasure ; he insures his life ; 
he subscribes to a building society. He 
marries some plain, managing woman, whose 
papa endows her with perhaps a thousand 
pounds. Money makes money, you know. 
After a while people begin to mention him as 
a very successful man — so he is ; but I fancy 
if we came to cast up the price he has paid for 
it, we should think the cost somewhat exces- 
sive. I should, for sure. Unless there is 



THE TIDE TURNS. 203 

some enjoyment to be got out of money 
while one is making it, I can't see the good 
of it. Do you think I would do without my 
chop to-day for any amount of venison when 
I am toothless ? No, we must work with an 
eye to the future, doubtless ; but it is worse 
than folly to ill-treat the good present, which 
is all we can lay our hands on, for the sake of 
what may never come." 

" There may be something in what 3'ou 
say," agreed Mr. Brisco coldly, " but still it 
seems to me no person having so small a 
sum of money as the individual I mentioned 
would be justified in risking its loss." 

" It is a matter of temperament. He 
would consider the loss as a very serious 
affair, no doubt." 

" Of that there can be no question." 

"Then clearly he is not one who should 
speculate." 

" I should say he should not speculate — - 
loss would almost break his heart ; but I did 
not know — I live so apart from the world of 
business. I thought possibly there were safe 
and profitable investments out of which a 



204 MITRE COURT. 



man so situated might improve his posi- 
tion." 

" As for investments, there are plenty. 
The Three per Cents, mortgage on freehold 
land, good ground-rents." 

Mr. Brisco smiled. 

" That is scarcely what I meant." 

" What did you mean ?" asked Mr. Katzen, 
with an excellent affectation of ignorance. 

" I meant that occasionally you, who are 
always about, might hear of some chance 
where the investment of a small amount 
for a short period would return a good 
percentage." 

Mr. Katzen shook his head. 

" High percentage means, you know, as a 
rule, bad security — but stay," he added, " a 
few pounds can now and then be made in 
Consols, and they are thought safe enough." 

" For that it would be necessary to employ 
a broker." 

*' Yes ; but I don't know that your friend 
could expect any broker to watch the market 
for him. Without that, he might not even 
make an eighth per cent, per annum. I 



THE TIDE TURNS. 205 

judge, from what you say, he is a bit of a 
duffer, a fellow who knows nothing about the 
dodges of The House." 

'' It is not a flattering portrait, but probably 
a likeness. And you think you can do nothing 
to help him. Of course, any small commis- 
sion you felt you could accept would be at 
your service." 

" Commission, pah ! do you suppose I am 
all business — all brass and iron ? It would 
only be great pleasure to me if I could put 
your friend in the way of making a little for- 
tune ; but at the minute I fail to see — stop, 
though ; wait a little, give me time to consider 
myself." 

Since no objection could be raised by any- 
one to this proceeding, Mr. Katzen put both 
hands to his forehead, and for a while sat 
considering himself. At last he looked up : 

" Is there any pressing hurry about this, 
Mr. Brisco T he asked. " Does your friend 
want to see a return to-morrow or the next 
day, or can he wait a little ?" 

" That would depend on how long the wait 
was likely to last." 



2o6 MITRE COURT. 



" Well, now, I tell you what we'll do. I 
am acquainted with a broker, a queer sort of 
a fellow, but sharp — sharp like to a needle. 
This sort of thing is not much in his way — 
as a rule he only attends to matters like to 
leave him a decent margin ; but he knows me 
well, and I have, I may say, been able to 
serve him to a small extent in my little way. 
He will do what I ask." 

" But pray remember that I should not 
wish you to put yourself under an obliga- 
tion." 

" It is no obligation, and if it were, do you 
think I should mind laying myself under one 
for my own advantage, or for the advantage 
of a friend ? Besides, he knows he will lose 
nothing by doing me a good turn. I am 
^oing to be so big a man soon — I shall be 
able to serve many people. This friend of 
yours, has he the money available, or must 
he stop to realize " 

" It is available now." 

" Then you bring me a hundred pounds, 
that will be plenty to begin with ; and if at the 
end of a month he is satisfied with the re- 



THE TIDE TURNS. 207 

turns, he can go in for more. If the thing is 
to be done at all, it can only be done by con- 
stantly turning the amount. A friend, a 
countryman of mine, netted a hundred and 
fifty pounds in a fortnight by just watching 
the market — pretty tidy on five hundred 
pounds, eh ? — but he never ran a risk, never 
ran the risk even of loss of gain. If it was 
only a sixteenth profit that could be made, he 
sold." 

** He went on, I suppose, till he amassed a 
fortune ?" 

" He went on and made a fortune, then he 
grew too venturesome and lost every cent. 
Ah, it was a thousand pities ! Man with a 
wife and young family too." 

" Shall I find you here at two o'clock ? I 
could bring the amount then, if not troubling 
you too much," said Mr. Brisco, who never 
seemed to think it necessary even to feign an 
interest in anyone but himself. 

" Trouble ! do not talk of trouble, please. 
As for two o'clock — let me see," and Mr. 
Katzen took out his watch and went into an 
elaborate calculation, which finally justified 



2o8 MITRE COURT. 



him in saying he would be found in Mitre 
Court at two sharp. " Make it as near that 
time as you can, will you kindly ?" he added, 
and then he walked with Mr. Brisco out on 
to the landing, and bade him take care of 
the stairs. " They are not so good as those 
in Botolph Lane," he finished ; after which 
statement he re-entered his room and closed 
the door. 

" I must not be too sure," he soliloquized, 
" or I should think, Karl, Heaven had a 
favour unto you. I hope his friend won't 
raise any foolish objections. Suppose now, 
only suppose, either of them guessed my 
whole worldly wealth at this minute consists 
of two-and-twenty shillings — I wonder how 
long they would keep that hundred pounds 
before letting me handle a penny of it ? A 
long time, I have a notion." 

Punctually at two o'clock the money came. 
Mr. Katzen gave Mr. Brisco a receipt for it, 
and the business was concluded. 

*' Now, Mrs. Jeffley," decided the Consul, 
" we will pay that rum-drinking, profane- 
swearing old ruffian of a Captain HasselL 



THE TIDE TURNS. 209 

You are at heart a spiteful cat, and you have 
shown your clawc more than once lately. 
You would talk, too, if the fit took you. Yes, 
we will pay the Captain ;" and he sighed as 
he put the fair crisp notes In his pocket-book 
ere sticking a notice on his door, " Return 
immediately," and making his way to the 
bank, the manager and clerks of which held 
him in much contempt, never dreaming he 
was destined to astonish them very greatly in 
a not remote future. 

As matters turned out, he did not repay 
Mrs. Jeffley. He offered her the money, but 
she refused to accept it. 

" I have settled with the Captain," she 
said, waving the money aside. " I thought 
it better to be done with him, and I do not 
want the amount at present. Keep It, If it is 
of any use to you ; I shall not need it till 
after Christmas, anyhow." 

" I can easily spare it," coquetted Mr. 
Katzen. " I brought It home with me on 
purpose to pay you. Come, Mrs. Jeffley ; 
' short accounts,' you know, as your husband 
says, * make long friends.' " 

VOL. II. 33 



2IO MITRE COURT. 



" We have been long friends," she an- 
swered, "and sometimes our accounts have 
not been very short, either. I wish you 
would keep it ; do, or I shall think you are 
offended because I was a little put out the 
night before last." 

" No, upon my good conscience !" declared 
Mr. Katzen. 

'' First there's one thing, and then there's 
another," mourned the brisk Maria. " What 
with the servants, and what with the children, 
and what with the lodgers, I often think life's. 
not worth the having." 

*' But, my dear soul " 

*' Yes, yes, Mr. Katzen, that's all very 
well ; but even you are often not like what 
you used to be. It is natural people should 
be taken up with their own concerns, and no 
doubt you must have a deal on your mind. I 
can make allowances. What hurts me is, 
nobody makes allowances for me." 

" My kind friend — my best of friends " 

" No, don't," interrupted Mrs. Jeffley, re- 
leasing her plump hand, of which, in the 
ardour of his gratitude, Mr. Katzen had pos- 



.THE TIDE TURNS. 



sessed himself. "Anything I have done, I 
have been glad to do. I'd have done more, 
had it lain in my power. I want no thanks, 
only don't take me up wrong if I speak a bit 
short. We have all our troubles. I have 
mine, little as you may think it." 

" Mrs. Jeffley," said her friend, " I do 
think it. Who should know better than I 
where the shoe that looks so neat and easy 
pinches ? If I do not speak, I feel ; but what 
have I done that you should misjudge me ? 
what have I left undone ? Even this money ! 
it was short notice, you know ; yet here I 
bring the full tale that you may be put to no 
inconvenience with the impatient Captain. 
You were not visible when I went out yester- 
day morning — worn out, exhausted, as Mrs. 
Childs told me — you were with your child 
last night again. This morning I could not 
see you, to tell you to be no more anxious ; 
and now here is the amount. What could I 
do more ? What else were it fitting I should 
have done ?" 

" Oh, I can't say, I am sure. Only just 
keep it for the present to please me. I am 



MITRE COURT. 



SO upset altogether, I scarce know whether I 
am talking sense or nonsense. You wouldn't 
vex me more than I am vexed, would you, 
Mr. Katzen ?" 

"If you put it that way," he answered, 
reluctantly withdrawing the money. 

" I do put it that way. When you want us 
to be quits I feel just like losing everybody." 

" Heaven knows I would be the last to 
make you feel just like that." 

"I used to think so — I did indeed," answered 
Mrs. Jeffley almost tearfully. 

*' Well, you may think so still ; and to show 
you I am not in the least changed, I will 
keep this money, and thank you for your 
trust in me." 

" Trust, what an idea ! And now I will 
bid you good-night. The child must be 
wanting me." 

"Good-night; and, Mrs. Jeffley, do get to 
bed. You will kill yourself if you go on as 
you are doing, resting never." 

"And if I did kill myself, nobody would 
care." 

" Now, now, now," remonstrated Mr. Kat- 



THE TIDE TURNS. 213 



zen. " After a sound sleep you will look on 
life with different eyes. See, I put up your 
loan. Gate Nacht, Geliebte." Into which 
sentence — which Mrs. Jefifley understood but 
imperfectly, and only at all, indeed, from the 
fact that she had heard it repeated many 
times before on occasions like the present — 
Mr. Katzen contrived to throw such an 
amount of respectful adoration that Mrs. 
Jeffley, in an access of alarmed, if mistaken, 
modesty, deemed it advisable to terminate 
the interview and ascend to the room where 
" Billy" was crying for her. 

In the solitude of his chamber Mr. Katzen's 
thoughts did not run perhaps on the track his 
"loved friend" imagined. He considered 
first that things were going fortunately for 
him — that Heaven evidently did mean to 
favour him : that Fortune was relenting, that 
Fate certainly did intend the New Andalusian 
loan to make one great splash, or else Fate 
really could not know its own mind ; that it 
was a pity he had not secured those other 
few hundreds belonging to Mr. Brisco's 
friend. Only it was possible in asking too 



;i4 MITRE COURT. 



much he might have ruined all — seeming too 
eager, he might get nothing ; that if Jack 
Jeffley had not been promoted and so thrown 
his wife's " excellent temper out of gear," she 
would not have been so ready to repay 
Captain Hassell out of her own pocket. " It 
is always one scale down, the other scale up, 
with the dear woman/' he finished. " Well, 
we shall see what we can make out of this 
windfall. By the way, I much marvel who 
Brisco's friend may be ! I thought he never 
had a friend at all." 

This was a matter which had not before 
occurred to Mr. Katzen. Now he did catch 
sight of it, he felt bound to run the quarry to 
earth. Walking up and down his room, he 
considered the question. He smoked two 
cigarettes over it. He ran back to the time 
when he first went to Botolph Lane — he 
recalled the incidents connected with his 
sojourn there — he taxed his memory to bring 
back the form of any man likely or unlikely 
to come under the category of " friend" to 
Mr. Brisco, unavailingly. 

Next to his love of speculative intrigue, 



THE TIDE TURNS. 21; 



Mr. Katzen's strongest passion perhaps was 
patient and curious analysis. He knew he 
should never be able to rest now till he had 
solved the mystery of this mysterious in- 
dividual possessed of a very few hundred 
pounds. Could he have any connection with 
Abigail ? Were the two strange incidents of 
a starving stray and a moneyed friend con- 
nected together } The Consul folded his 
dressing-gown more closely around his person, 
flung away the remaining inch of his cigarette, 
threw himself into an armchair drawn close 
before the fire, and thought. He thought 
thus for best part of an hour — thought till at 
last a gratified smile stole slowly over his face. 
" Yes, I fancy that is it, Karl," he said 
meditatively, as he stirred the coals into a 
fitful blaze. "And you have always sus- 
pected something of the sort." 





CHAPTER IX. 



MR. JEFFLEY S WINDFALL. 




HRISTMAS had gone. Not so 
the cold introduced by Wilhelmina 
into Fowkes' Buildings. Every 
creature in Mrs. Jeffley's house, from the 
latest lodger and last domestic to the 
youngest child, had been afflicted with cough, 
sore throat, or some analogous malady. 

" To the devil with such a climate !" said 
Mr. Katzen. He had sneezed fifteen times 
in succession, and a black London fog 
pervaded the whole building. The gas 
was blinking as if drunk, which is a way 
ofas often has in one's extremest need ; so 
perhaps Mr. Katzen might be excused an 
aspiration, hard certainly on a land which 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 217 

had neither asked nor desired the pleasure oi 
his presence. " I shall go down to Brighton 
by first train to-morrow morning. I can't 
stand this any longer." 

" Lucky to be you, who can go where you 
like, when you like, and stay as long as you 
like," answered Frank Scott, to whom Mr. 
Katzen's remark had been addressed. Scott 
himself was going about his business with an 
inflamed eye and a gumboil. 

" You might have been lucky too, if you 
had seen fit to take my offer, instead of 
sticking with your bill-broking friend in 
Nicholas Lane," retorted the Consul, who as 
yet was ignorant of the young man's rise in 
the world. 

Frank had decided not to blazon forth his 
good fortune to Mr. Jeffley's typical Dick, 
Tom, and Harry — and for once Jack, en- 
treated to preserve the secret, had managed 
to do so. 

Frank smiled, as well as a man suffer- 
ing under such physical difficulties could 
smile. 

" Even if I had availed myself of your 



2i8 MITRE COURT. 



kind offer, Mr. Katzen," he said, " I fancy 
you would have expected me to stay in Mitre 
Court while jK^z/ went to Brighton." 

'' Perhaps I might," answered Mr. Katzen, 
laughing ; " indeed, I know I should ; still, if 
you had taken my well-meant offer, I would 
have shown you ways to make money enough 
to become your own master. As it is, you 
will go on run-running about the town in 
order to make money for another man till 
your head is white." 

" White with age, not sin, I hope." 

" Bah, there is no sin but poverty. Let 
the priests talk as they will, that is the only 
unpardonable crime nowadays. Personally, 
dear young man," went on Mr. Katzen, " I 
am not so sorry you thought it better to stay 
with Brintolf than come with me, as perhaps 
I ought. I have now a first-rate clerk, one 
not as you only owning one tongue. He is 
the master of many languages. He can talk 
Spanish, Portuguese, jabber to anyone, any- 
where. Ah ! Rothsattel is a clever fellow ; I 
had a find in him !" 

" 1 rejoice to hear you are so well suited," 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 219 



sard Frank, with a smile which Mr. Jeffley 
would have called " dubious." 

*' I should be right enough as regards 
everything," answered Mr. Katzen, " if I 
were only rid of this confounded cold." 

"You have not as bad a cold as Mr. 
Jeffley," remarked young Scott, administer- 
ing the sort of consolation usually considered 
so excellent. 

" The fact that his is bad makes not mine 
any better," said Mr. Katzen. "Though, 
faith ! it is a good joke to see the big man 
take on as he does about a quinsy." 

"If you had quinsy, Mr. Katzen, I fancy 
you would not think it much of a joke." 

" I hope I should bear it better than our 
friend. He imagines he is going to die, I 
believe." 

If anything, this was rather understating 
the case. Jack not merely imagined his hour 
had come, but felt sure it had. Personal 
illness and he were almost strangers ; and 
now, stricken and well-nigh starved, he be- 
moaned his fate to all and any he could find 
to listen to him. 



220 MITRE COURT. 



Mrs. Jeffley refused to listen ; when he 
tried to enhst her sympathy and arouse her 
anxiety she snubbed him into silence. 

" Die !" she repeated ; " what would you 
die of.'* Quinsy — pack of rubbish! People 
like you don't die so easily ; it would take a 
lot to kill you, I know. You are nothing but a 
great baby. Why, Bertie would be ashamed 
to grizzle the way you are doing. Just think 
of Sydney, poor lamb ! when he cut his finger 
to the bone, and the blood was streaming 
down his pinafore in torrents, he never opened 
his lips. As for you, you never shut them, 
wanting this, that, and the other, as if I had 
nothing on earth to do but consider your 
likings and dislikings," 

" I hope you won't be sorry for all this 
some day," remonstrated Jack. " Some day 
when I am dead and g-one " 

"What should I be sorry for ?" asked Mrs. 
Jeffley. " That I am not so foolish as you ? 
If I were, I don't know what would become 
of us. Here you have been three whole 
weeks without doing one stroke of work, 
and all because you would persist in leaving 



MR. fEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 



off that thick wrapper one day the sun 
chanced to show himself for about five 
minutes." 

" Well, well, perhaps it was my own fault ; 
but I have been terribly punished." 

" Not a bit of it. / have been punished ; 
I have had to attend to you hand and foot, 
early and late, night and day. I am sure, as 
Mrs. Childs says " 

'* If you tell me another word she says, or 
send her to me with any more of her vile 
messes, I won't be answerable for the con- 
sequences. There will be murder done, 
Maria, and by me." 

" Dear, dear, nobody can please you !" 

"It is not easy to be pleased with no food 
in my stomach, and a thing like a mangel- 
wurzel stopping up my throat. I shall send 
for another doctor. It is no use sitting quietly 
till death fetches me, without making one 
effort for life." 

" I wouldn't make a laughing-stock of 
myself," answered Mrs. Jeffley. " If Dr. 
Morris can't cure you, nobody can." 

" I am not so sure of that." 



MITRE COURT. 



"Well, I am," retorted his wife, "and 
that's enough." 

Jack considered this a harsh way of putting 
matters, but facts justified if they did not 
soften Mrs. Jeffley's statement. That night 
the lump which Jack had indeed believed to 
be as large as a mangel-wurzel, broke, as 
the doctor said, "beautifully." 

Then indeed Jack felt his hour had come, 
and braced himself up to meet the inevitable 
— -when sick, faint, weak and dazed, he laid 
liis head back on the pillows, he honestly 
believed he should never raise it again. 

"You feel all right now," said the doctor 
in a disgustingly cheerful tone, but Jack was 
incapable of dissent. 

" What you want is food, not physic," went 
on his medical adviser ; " but we must not 
overdo it — we must be careful." 

Again Jack made no answer ; the world 
seemed slipping away from him. Deedes' 
was a mere memory far back almost as boy- 
hood. The time was past when he longed 
for beef-tea and could have devoured jelly. 
His youngest child had more strength than 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 22 j 

he ; all he desired was to be let alone — to be 
left in quiet while he passed to that bourne 
he had been so dreading to reach. 

"Your husband is very much pulled 
down," said the doctor to Mrs. Jeffley, as he 
stood in the passage, holding his hat in his 
left hand while he carefully smoothed the 
nap round and round with the right. 

"The wonder would be if he wasn't," 
answered Mrs. Jeffley. " A strong hearty 
man used to his four regular meals a day, 
taking nothing for all this time — enough to 
pull him down." 

" He will require great care." 

" He can have no better care than he has 
had. It was not my fault that he would not 
force himself to swallow." 

The doctor knew better than to enter upon 
any controversy connected with so vexed a 
question, one which had indeed previously 
been threshed out as completely as any 
question could be with Mrs. Jeffley. 

"Our patient is very low and weak," he 
remarked. 

" I don't need anybody to tell me that," 



224 MITRE COURT. 



answered "our patient's" wife. "When 
people once begin to give up and to let 
themselves down, it is hard to say where 
they may end." 

" But with your good nursing and his own 
-excellent constitution I trust he will pull 
round rapidly," went on the doctor, as though 
in continuation of his former sentence ; " still 
he must not play any tricks with himself. 
If it were not for the excellent care I know 
you take of him, I should feel more uneasy 
than I do. 1 need not tell you, it is always 
with these strong, hearty men we have the 
most trouble. They have a nasty knack 
sometimes of collapsing in an unaccountable 
way." 

" Do you mean, doctor, that my husband 
is in any — ssi^— danger 7' asked Mrs. Jeffley. 

" No — no — nothing of the sort, only he is 
very low — it is well to be on the safe 
side — that is all, and I shall look in early 
to-morrow." 

" Now what can the man's notion be ?" 

■ considered Mrs. Jeffley. " He does not 

imagine, I hope, that Jack is neglected, or 



J/i?. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 



that he wants for anything money can buy. 
I am sure if he had fancied molten gold I'd 
have tried to get it for him hot from the 
Mint." 

She turned into Jack's little parlour for 
some trifle she required ere going upstairs 
and the cold, uninhabited, formal look of the 
room struck her with an unpleasant chill. 

Nothino- there now to find fault with — 
no slippers lying about, no newspaper tossed 
aside, no book left open, no fireirons at 
other than the correct angle. Supposing, 
just supposing for a moment the parlour were 
in the same formal state of neatness as then 
obtained, only that instead of the table 
another ornament occupied the centre of the 
•carpet. ' 

The vision came before her eyes with 
perfect distinctness — trestles supporting a 
coffin — and Jack, with all his worrying 
crotchets and useless old-fashioned notions, 
out of the way for ever. 

Mrs. Jeffley was not a person who could 
strictly be termed imaginative. Indeed, 
when speaking subsequently of the matter — 

VOL. II. ^4- 



226 MITRE COURT. 



which she did not do, however, for a long long 
time — she declared she could not think what 
possessed her, whatever could have put such 
a notion in her mind ; yet undoubtedly fancy 
did play the extraordinary trick of showing 
her not only a few of the terrors that follow 
in the wake of death, but of reviving from 
out the past some memory of Jack as she 
used to think of him before it dawned upon 
her comprehension how foolish he was, and 
how far inferior to herself. 

The whole thing did not occupy longer 
than the time a man might dip his head in a 
bucket of water and draw it out again. Yet 
it seemed so real, and carried Mrs. Jeffley so 
far from her immediate surroundings, that 
she quite started when a voice inquired : 

" Is there anything more, 'm, you'll require 
before I go ? Because, if there is, I am sure 
I'll wait with pleasure." 

Mrs. Jeffley turned like one dazed, and 
beheld Mrs. Childs, whose face having 
swelled, the "one grace she lacked," to quote 
Mr. Katzen, had now been added. 

" Lor, 'm !" exclaimed that excellent woman 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 227 

ere Mrs. Jeffley could frame a reply to her 
question, " aren't you well ? You give me 
quite a turn. If you'<^ seen a ghost, 'm, you 
couldn't be whiter." 

" Ghost enough, I think, to have people 
come frightening one as you frightened me," 
retorted Mrs. Jeffley. " I had no idea any 
person was behind me. Why did you not 
make some noise ?" 

" I knocked three times, 'm, and coughed 
twice ; and then, seeing you were wropped in 
thought, I made so free at last as to speak. 
If I'd thought I should frighten you I would 
have bitten my tongue out first — you know I 
would, 'm." 

" I know nothing of the sort," answered 
Mrs. Jeffley, glad of any whipping-boy on 
whom she could vent her irritation. " Did 
you take the coals upstairs as I asked you ?" 

" Yes, 'm ; and I caught a glance at 
master. How bad he do look, to be sure !" 

" Nonsense ! the doctor says he is going 
on as well as possible." 

" I am sure I am glad to hear it, 'm ; not 
as it is always best to depend on doctors, as 

34—2 



228 MITRE COURT. 



witness my sister's husband's father, you may 
call to mind I told you about, 'm — died 
without making a will, all because the first 
surgeons said he was good for another twenty 
years, and him all the time dying before their 
very eyes." 

" I do not want to hear anything more 
about your brother-in-law's father — you have 
told me the whole affair over and over again," 
said Mrs. Jeffley, not merely rudely but 
unfairly, since Mrs. Childs was scarcely in a 
position to answer her back. "And as for 
Mr. Jeffley, I believe what Dr. Morris tells 
me, and I do not intend to believe anyone 
else." 

" That is a great comfort to know, 'm," 
replied Mrs. Childs, who was an expert at 
paying her debts in malt when she felt afraid 
of discharging them in meal. " I am foolish, 
I'm aware ; but as I came downstairs the poor 
dear master's white sunk face seemed to 
haunt me, and I could not help thinking to 
myself, ' Missus has been a fortunate woman ; 
not a bit more fortunate, though, than she 
deserves — as I have right to say, none better. 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 



She has never lost chick nor child, nor had a 
bad illness herself, hard as she has worked, 
with her mind always busy about something ; 
but now, oh dear ! if it should be the Lord's 
will to take Mr. Jeffley, what would she do ? 
— left all alone with a young family, and 
deprived of a husband who never crossed her 
in anythink, and fairly worshipped the ground 
she walked on.' It all came upon me at 
once," finished Mrs. Childs, applying the 
corner of her black shawl to her face, which 
was only a degree less black, "as I came 
down the stairs I have been up so often 
— it seemed as if there was a spell on 
me." 

" I wish you would not talk such folly, '^ 
said Mrs. Jeffley impatiently. " Mr. Jeffley 
is not going to die — he is getting well as fast 
as he can. No," went on Mrs. Childs's 
mistress hurriedly, with a view of cutting 
short any further remarks the estimable 
woman might feel disposed to indulge in, 
"nothing more will be required to-night. 
You need not stop any longer." 

But still Mrs. Childs lingered. 



230 MITRE COURT. 



"Has the poor master got his medicine, 
'm ?" she asked. 

" No ; but Dr. Morris will send it round 
directly." 

"And are you sure, 'm, you wouldn't like 
me to stay here, in case anything should be 
wanted of a sudden, or anyone fetched ? 
You'll excuse me, 'm, but I can't abear the 
notion of your being left all by yourself. If 
the master should be took worse, what could 
you do ?" 

" I'd do very well," answered Mrs. Jeffley ; 
" there are plenty of people in the house I 
could call up in a minute." 

" Of course, 'm, you know best, and you 
are very brave ; still, I'd like well to stop. I 
could just run home and have a bite of 
supper, and come back, if you would let me. 
It would be no hardship to me, 'm, sitting 
up." 

"There is no need for anybody to sit up," 
declared Mrs. Jeffley. "To hear you talk, 
one would think my husband was dying." 

" Lord send it may not come to that !" 
ejaculated Mrs. Childs piously. "Well, 'm, 



^!R. JEFFLEY'S windfall. 231 

wishing you good-night, and the master 
better." 

" Good-night," said Mrs. Jeffley brusquely, 
in a tone intended to assure her henchwoman 
that whatever happened to Mr. Jeffley, she, 
Maria, would rise equal to the occasion. 

"She's as hard as steel," remarked Mrs. 
Childs to Sophia the while the pair partook 
of toasted cheese, which Mrs. Childs felt was 
the only thing on that particular evening she 
could "let inside her lips;" "but I'm sure I 
touched her. If he does die — and he looks 
as like death as a man can, not laid out for 
his coffin — she'll soon find out the difference." 

" Yes, she'll find the difference," agreed 
Sophia, speaking with her mouth full. 

"If he should go," said Mrs. Childs, the 
"he" referring to Mr. Jeffley, "she can't be 
off giving me a full suit of black." 

" No, she can't be off of giving you a full 
suit," capped Sophia. 

This was the sort of conversation which 
pleased Mrs. Childs when she could permit 
herself to unbend, precisely as a swinging 
waltz air sometimes proves agreeable to the 



232 MITRE COURT. 

disciples of Wagner after one of The Master's 
most stupendous effects. 

As if he had known the precise end to 
which Mrs. Childs' wishes were tending, 
and took a pleasure in frustrating them, Mr. 
Jeffley, so far from making haste to " be laid 
out for his coffin," proceeded to get well 
surely, if somewhat slowly. 

That he did not make headway so fast 
as could have been desired mig^ht be traced 
to two causes : one, he, a strong man, had 
been brought by compulsory starvation almost 
within sight of the gates of death ; the 
other 

" You have something on your mind," 
affirmed the doctor one day, when Jack's 
languor, contrasted with Jack's pulse, puzzled 
him exceedingly. 

" I have ; though I don't know how you 
found that out," replied Mr. JefFley. *' But I 
mean to get it off my mind the first day I am 
allowed to leave the house." 

" How far do you want to go ?" asked the 
doctor, who was accustomed to prescribe for 
sane people, and knew how good it is some- 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 235 

times to talk common-sense even to the 
grievously sick. 

"Only into the City — to Throgmorton 
Street." 

" And to stop for how long ?" 

" Say half an hour at the outside." 

" Talking all the time ?" 

" Lord, no — I should hope not ; talking, 
say, three minutes. I only want to buy in 
some stock." 

" You are quite sure — you are not going 
to excite yourself about anything ?" 

"I am only going to do what I tell 
you." 

" Then the sooner you get the matter off 
your mind the better. Wrap yourself up 
well, take a cab — four-wheeler — do not stop 
longer than you can help, and I dare say I 
shall find you none the worse to-morrow." 

" Do you mean that I may venture out 
to-day ?" asked Jack incredulously. 

" Certainly, there is nothing deadly wrong 
with you now ;" which Jack felt to be a very 
hard statement, believing, as he honestly did, 
no one had ever been so ill before. 



234 MITRE COURT. 



" Why, it is a trouble to me to lift my hand 
to my head," he was wont to declare. 

He returned home about four; arriving 
tired enough in Fowkes' Buildings at what 
Mrs. Childs called the "slackest" time of 
the day. 

It was she who, spite of his previous ex- 
postulation, brought him beef-tea and a glass 
of wine, explaining, " Poor missus had laid 
herself down to see if she could close her 
eyes for a few minutes ; but I'll tell her you're 
back, sir, if you would wish me to do so," in 
a tone which seemed to add the words, " and 
a brute you would be if you wished anything 
of the sort." 

Mr. Jeffley answered that he would not 
have his wife disturbed for the world ; then, 
finishing his beef-tea, he said he wanted 
nothing more, and lay down on the sofa to 
think in the firelig-ht. 

The events of the nine previous months 
supplied him with abundant matter for 
reflection. 

" It never rains but it pours," says the old 
proverb ; and by means of what seemed to 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 235 

his simple mind a perfect deluge of incidents, 
Mr. John Jeffley had proved that the old 
proverb embodied a simple truth. 

First came to him the amazing knowledge 
of Mr. Gregson's wickedness. Though he 
never liked Mr. Gregson — the manager 
having been always too high and mighty, too 
much of a " stand-off-a-little-further-if-you- 
please, and keep-your-distance-my-good-fel- 
low sort of gentleman " to please honest, 
simple Jack — he had nevertheless believed in 
the bona fides of that enterprising individual. 
When that shock was a little what he called 
" overgot," he felt able to devote his mind to 
the surprising fact that Frank Scott, " of all 
people in the world," had discovered Mr. 
Gregson's game and checkmated it. 

" I always thought and I always said," 
considered Mr. Jeffley, "that young Scott 
had more in him than anybody imagined, but 
it never did enter into my head that he would 
have had the 'nous' to unravel a skein of 
this sort. It must be the German, I suppose, 
teaches a man to rise up early enough to 
understand such goings on as Gregson's. I 



236 MITRE COURT. 



wonder now, if anybody had taught me to 
speak that unchristian Hngo, whether I should 
have got through the world better ;" and Jack 
smoked many pipes while he argued out this 
knotty point, which involved a more important 
issue, namely, whether he ought to speculate 
in having some one to give the "young ones" 
lessons in a language he firmly believed had 
been invented by the devil. 

Finally, as was natural, he decided against 
letting any child belonging to him have any- 
thing to do with a tongue which must, 
according to his creed, have come from — 
well, it is unnecessary to be too precise about 
the locality. 

" If they can't get along with plain English," 
he thought, " they may just as well not try to 
get on at all. It would seem to me a sort of 
disgrace to my father's memory if I heard a 

child of mine jabbering to any foreigners 

in their own tongue, which can't seem so bad 
to them or they'd never go on cracking their 
jaws over it as they do. I don't understand 
how Scott, not five-and-twenty years old yet, 
learnt to read and to talk like so many of 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. ^yj 

them as he does. I can see he's a bit 
ashamed of it, and no wonder ; seems afraid, 
when he has to interpret, to speak up hearty. 
Well, that's to his credit anyhow ; and I am 
sure, however he got his knowledge, it was 
honestly. I only hope this quick promotion 
won't turn his head — and for that matter, 
Jack, I do trust you mayn't begin to think 
too much of yourself. Manager of Deedes' ! 
Oh, dear me, if my poor old mother could 
only have lived, how proud she'd be ! But 
she's better off, I'm sure — the last time I saw 
her living she had failed greatly, and her 
rheumatism was very bad." 

These events, which all meant good in 
some way to Mr. John Jeffley, having thus 
occurred, and thus been partly digested, Fate, 
who about this particular time chanced to be 
in a most benignant mood, could not resist 
flinging another piece of good fortune towards 
the man she had never before thought worth 
considering. 

" I say, Frank," cried Mr. Jeffley one 
afternoon, bursting open the door of Sir 
Christopher's dining-room in Botolph Lane, 



238 MITRE COURT. 



" what do you think has happened now ? 
My old godmother, that never gave me as 
much as a teething-ring, and who I'm sure I 
thought was dead twenty years ago, has just 
quitted this wicked world and left to her 
beloved godson, John Jeffley — that's me, you 
know — fifteen hundred pounds in Consols — 
fifteen hundred pounds ! — as I am a living 
sinner." 

" I congratulate you with all my heart." 
" What had I best do with it ? Come now, 
advise me." 

Frank Scott looked straight in Jack's 
handsome, eager face — looked, seemed in- 
clined to speak, then thought better of the 
matter, and held his tongue. 

"Why don't you answer me ?" asked Mr. 
Jeffley. 

" I am afraid of giving offence." 
" I can't think what has come to you 
lately," said Jack. ''You've never been a 
bit like yourself since that night we went up 
to Hamilton Place. How could you offend 
me ? Am I so apt to take offence ? Come, 
what were you going to advise ? — out with it." 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 



" I was going to advise you not to tell 
your wife," answered Frank, looking away 
from Mr. Jeffley as he spoke. 

If he had glanced towards him he would 
have seen the colour mount higher and 
higher in Jack's face. 

" I don't want to hurt you, but it is true— 
for you have told me so yourself — that you 
have not been able to put a halfpenny by ; 
and you know as well as I do, if Mrs. Jeffley 
knows of this legacy, at the end of a year it 
will all be gone. She would take another 
house, or refurnish, or do something of the 
sort. She would not squander the money, 
but all the same it would go ; and if you 
think your position over you must see, with 
your family, you have no right to let such a 
sum of money slip through your fingers." 

Mr. Jeffley did not say a word. He stood 
for a moment utterly silent, then walked to 
the door. Frank followed this movement 
with his eyes. He felt sorry, though not 
surprised ; the usual fate of counsellors was 
his. 

Jack slowly turned the handle, opened the 



240 MITRE COURT. 



door, went out, closed the door behind him. 
Frank remained standing, a pained look on 
his face and a heavier pain at his heart. He 
was fond of this foolish husband, and 

Once again the door opened, and Jack 
appeared. He walked straight across the 
room and held out his hand. 

" I know you did not mean to vex me, old 
fellow," he said huskily ; and then he went. 

This conversation took place just after 
Christmas, and proved a sore trouble to Mr. 
Jeffley. It seemed to him an act well-nigh 
of disloyalty to keep such a secret from his 
wife ; to him it was as natural to tell, as 
many persons find it to withhold. There 
were no dark corners in his nature ; if there 
had been, it may be his wife would have 
liked him better. To the unsophisticated 
female there is always something attractive 
about mystery, even if it be the mystery of 
wickedness. Eve would never have eaten of 
the apple if she had not believed there lurked 
in it somewhere a pleasant flavour of sin. 

Jack was the sort of man who could have 
gone through life perfecdy contented if 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 241 

allowed to do his dally work in peace, and 
return every evening to a quiet home, where, 
seated beside a clean hearth and a bright 
fire, he could have told his wife the few 
experiences which had come to him since 
morning, the while she darned his socks or 
mended the children's dresses. 

If Heaven had seen fit to give him such 
increase of prosperity as might justify a four- 
wheeled trap and a stout cob, he would have 
enjoyed driving his missus and the young 
ones out to the Forest on summer evenings 
more than words could tell. 

His ideal of a perfect existence was a fat 
farm in some one of the home counties, with 
an orchard near the house and a stream 
meandering through the meadov^^s ; but, when 
he came to London, he resolutely cast all that 
aside, as a man born to a fine estate and 
brought suddenly to beggary is wise to try to 
forget the past and do the best possible for 
the future. 

For years Jack had wilfully ignored all 
causes of anxiety ; but from the time he was 
advanced to the post of manager, something 

VOL. II. 35 



242 MITRE COURT. 



more than a vague sense of uneasiness began 
to oppress him. Hitherto he had never 
known any want of money ; debts incurred 
without the wherewithal to discharge them 
were things unheard of in Fowkes' Buildings. 
Years previously he had insured his life for 
a moderate amount ; but circumstances were 
changed since then. His responsibilities had 
increased ; his wife's views grown larger ; 
what would once have seemed a decent 
provision for a rainy day now could be 
regarded but as a drop in the ocean of the 
family's increased expenditure. 

Mr. Jeffley could close his eyes to facts no 
longer. Let his salary be as good as Messrs. 
Deedes liked to make it, a use could somehow 
be found for the whole stipend. 

What Frank Scott said was too true. He 
had not saved a shilling — no, not a penny 
likely to benefit himself, supposing he lived 
to be an old man and grow past his work ; 
the insurances did not amount to much, and, 
if he increased them, he was not so young as 
he had been, and the premiums would tot up 
to something considerable. He ought not to 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 243 



let this great windfall— this gift straight from 
Heaven, as it seemed to him — be frittered 
away, and yet it was hard at that time of his 
married life to begin to keep money from 
his wife. Jack did not know what to do. 
He turned and twisted matters over in his 
mind, and was still so turning and twisting 
them when he fell ill and made quite sure his 
last hour had come. 

That fifteen hundred pounds lay heavy on 
his soul. He had made no arrangement 
concerning it, not even mentioned the legacy 
to his wife. In the dead of night he lay and 
thought about his widow and his children, 
remembered the precise tone in which Frank 
Scott had uttered his warning, and lamented 
he had not put on his considering-cap while 
his head was still clear enough to consider 
anything. If he had seen any good which 
making a will could do, he would even at the 
eleventh hour have sent for a lawyer ; but it 
was difficult to make up his mind how it 
would be best to parcel the money out. 
Curiously enough, it was when he seemed 
physically at his weakest that his brain began 

35—2 



244 MITRE COURT. 



to clear. Lying free from pain, but in a 
state of absolute exhaustion, he saw no longer 
as through a mist dimly, but clearly what he 
considered the best and only road to take. 

" I'll settle the matter the first day I can 
get out," he decided ; and, having so settled 
it, he waited with patience in the twilight, 
waiting till his wife should have finished her 
sleep, and dressed, and be in a condition 
inwardly and outwardly to listen to what he 
had to say. 

It was past five o'clock before Mrs. Jefiley, 
dressed in her second-best silk dress, rustled 
down the staircase. The gas had long been 
lighted all over the house, save in his own 
especial room — that room in which, though 
Jack did not know it, his wife had beheld a 
vision which over and over again softened 
and changed her manner in a way which 
seemed to everyone, Mrs. Childs alone ex- 
cepted, unaccountable. 

But all that was passing now. In pre- 
cise proportion to the amount of wine, beef- 
tea, jelly, and beaten-up eggs her husband 
swallowed, Mrs. Jeffley's heart hardened. 



MR. JEFFLETS WINDFALL. 245 

She was anxious about the patient no longer. 
He had been able to go into the City ; he 
talked of getting round to the office. She 
felt inclined to resent the extent to which her 
feelings had been lacerated, and occasionally 
she said very sharp things indeed to Jack. 
The weather further was wretched, and some 
of her inmates had been giving her trouble — 
altogether, Mrs. Jeffley was not in the best 
of tempers on that evening when she bustled 
downstairs, and, flinging wide the parlour- 
door, let in a flood of light, against which her 
husband involuntarily closed his tired eyes. 

" What — all in the dark ?" she cried. " I 
am sure that is not the way to get well ; 
moping and thinking is the worst thing in the 
world for anyone ;" and, suiting her practice 
to her precept, she turned the gas full on and 
lit all three burners. 

" Come, that's better," she remarked. " You 
feel stronger, don't you ? Been asleep T 

" No," answered Jack. 

" Oh ! but I am sure you must have been. 
I was so tired, the minute I lay down I went 
off; but then, of course, it is different with 



246 MITRE COURT. 



me. I have never sat down since breakfast, 
except when I tried to swallow a mouthful of 
dinner." 

"Can't you sit down now .-*" asked her 
husband. 

" At this time of the evening ! Shows how 
much you know about all I have to do." 

" But I want to speak to you." 

" Speak then. What is hindering you T 

" I wish you would shut the door." 

" Dear me ! There — will that content 
you ? Now what is this great mystery ?" 

"It is no great mystery — it relates to 
money." 

" Money !" she repeated sharply. " You 
have not got into any money trouble, I 
hope ?" 

" No. Do sit down, Maria — I want to 
talk to you seriously. You have no idea how 
it worries me to see you standing and 
fidgeting, as if you wanted every instant 
to go." 

"Well, I do want to go. However! if I 
must stop and listen to you, I suppose I 
must. Make haste though — everything is 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 247 

behind to-night, as it always is if I take a 
quarter of an hour's rest." 

" I will make as much haste as I can. I 
have been very very ill, you know." 

" If I don't know, it is not because you 
have not told me so often enough. Whether 
you have been very ill or not, however, you 
are getting well now." ^ 

" That is as it may be," said Jack. 

" That is as it is," returned Mrs. Jeffley, 
with great decision. 

" Well — well — let that pass. If I get well 
now, I may not be so lucky the next time." 

" Bless me ! if you are not enough to 
provoke a saint. What would hinder you 
getting well fifty times if you were fifty times 
ill ? — which I hope wuth all my heart and soul 
you won't be ! Once has been quite enough. 
If you couldn't get well, I'd like to know who 
ought : good food — a warm house — the best 
of nursing — the doctor to see you not less 
than twice a day ! Why, if you had been a 
king you couldn't have had more care taken 
of you !" 

" I don't deny that ; but," Jack hurried on 



248 MITRE COURT. 



(seeing a look in his wife's face which meant 
''because you can't"), "what I wanted to say- 
was, when once a man gets his marching- 
order for another world, the best of good care 
can't hinder him.'" 

" Can't it ?" said Mrs. Jefifley drily. 

"And when I was at my worst, I felt just 
as a soldier might the night before a battle, 
while he lies thinking of his wife and 
children." 

" The doctor would not like your talking in 
this sort of way," observed his wife. " I 
know I don't ; and you're keeping me from 
what I ought to be doing." 

" The doctor said if I had anything weighing 
on me I ought to get it off my mind as soon 
as I could," answered Jack. 

"And have you anything weighing on 
you : 

" Yes." 

" Then why don't you do what the doctor 
tells you T 

" I will, if you will only hear what it is." 

"Oh! I'll listen fast enough, only do not 
keep me here all night." 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 249 

" I have been very anxious about you and 
the children." 

" You told me that before." 

" Yes ; and I must tell you again, because 
that is the burden of the whole trouble. Of 
course I should like to live as well as anybody 
else, still, if it is God's will I should die — — " 

"You are not going to die," declared Mrs. 
Jeffley, as if she were the Almighty. 

"Well, anyhow, whether I die or live I 
want to put affairs as straight for you as I 
can, and I began to do so to-day." 

"What have you been doing? Tiring 
yourself, for one thing, I see. I only hope 
you have not been catching a fresh cold," 
which remark was flung at Jack as though he 
had been out fishing for quinsy. 

" I have been transferring some stock to 
your name." 

"Stock!" repeated his wife. "In the 
name of patience what sort of stock ?" 

" Consols — Three per Cents — Government 
Securities. Fact is, Polly," proceeded Mr. 
Jeffley, taking a leap at this point over an 
extremely stiff hedge and ditch — a rasper 



250 MITRE COURT. 



indeed — " my godmother has died and left 
me some money." 

" Left you some money !" repeated Mrs. 
Jeffley. She had been the proud possessor 
of two godmothers, and yet neither had 
thought of leaving her any money. 

*' Yes ; and what I thought, d'ye see, dear, 
was this — supposing I die without a will !" 

*' But you are not going to die," repeated 
the lady with even greater decision than 
before. 

"We must all die," said Jack mournfully. 
Spite of the boarding-house and his wife's 
" little hastinesses," as he mentally termed 
her fits of ill-temper, and Mr. Katzen, he 
did think this world a very pleasant one, and 
would have liked to stop in it for a very long 
time. 

" I am not so sure of that," answered Mrs. 
Jefiley, who at times really did seem to 
consider herself omnipotent. 

•'At any rate, many people do die," 
hazarded her husband, "and likely some day 
I may be one of the lot. For this reason I 
must tell you how it would be if before I 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 251 



went I made no will — one-third the law 
would give to you, and the remainder would 
be divided equally among the children." 

" I know that." 

" Well, surely you could do better for the 
young ones, if your hands were not tied. I 
don't hold, myself, with leaving money to 
boys and girls that they are entitled to 
without ' thank you ' or * by your leave ' from 
their parents." 

"It is not over-probable your boys and 
girls will inherit enough from you to trouble 
them," said Mrs. Jeffliey contemptuously. 

" Perhaps you are right, but still, what 
there is I'd like to know was in your hands. 
I can just as well say to you all I should put 
in a will if I made one. I have put the 
whole of this legacy in Consols in your name 
— you will have the papers in a few days. It 
is yours absolutely, mind. If I live I shall 
never want it from you again ; the only 
thing is, I should like you to make me two 
promises." 

" What promises ?" asked Mrs. Jeffley. 

" One, that you won't use it in this boarding- 



252 MITRE COURT. 



house business ; and the other, that if you 
marry again, you will secure the money to 
our children." 

" You may be very sure I shall never 
marry again." 

She did not remark aloud, " I have found 
once too often ;" but Jack, reading the 
addition plainly as though it had been 
printed on her face, wisely abstained from 
further discussion on that point. 

" I am sure you will do what I ask," he 
said. 

"Oh! I'll do what you ask," she agreed 
ungraciously. " You have never asked me 
much I have not been only too willing to 
grant, though what can be your hatred to a 
business which has kept us all in comfort and 
respectability baffles me." 

" That has nothing to do with the present 
matter. All I want is for this money, which 
has fallen in a manner from the clouds, to be 
kept by itself, always available for you and 
the children. I'd like the interest to accumu- 
late, if you find no immediate need for it." 

" I dare say the interest won't signify much 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 253 

one way or other," said Mrs. Jeffley disparag- 
ingly. 

" I do not know exactly what it will come 
to. Nearly fifty pounds a year, I suppose." 

" Nearly what .^" 

" Say five-and-forty — it will be that, at any 
rate." 

" Why, how much has been left you ?" 

" Fifteen hundred pounds !" 

Mrs. Jeffley looked at her husband in 
blank amazement. If he had been trying 
with the greatest art to lead up to a telling 
situation, he could scarcely have succeeded 
better. 

" Fifteen hundred !" she repeated. "Well, 
I never !" 

*' If it had only been a trifle, I shouldn't 
have troubled about it," Mr. Jeffley said simply 
— " I'd have put it into your hand straight 
away, and asked you to buy what you fancied 
for yourself and the children ; but " 

Jack paused. He was still low and weak, 
and even had he felt in strong health, he 
would have hesitated how to word what he 
still wished to add. 



254 MITRE COURT. 



Mrs. Jeffley did not make any remark. 
For once speech failed her — for once the 
man's childlike confidence and faithful love 
touched her soul without stirring her anger. 

Fifteen hundred pounds just handed over 
with less fuss than many a husband would 
have made about doling out a sovereign. 
And Jack did look ill and changed. In the 
glare of the gaslight, and with the leaping 
flame, into which she had stirred the blazingf 
coals, falling at cross angles upon his face, 
she could see how thin he was — how haggard 
— how unlike the strong, healthy, burly Jack 
it once seemed as though sickness could never 
touch, and who, in his wife's eyes, could do 
no single thing that was right. 

Involuntarily almost, she put up her hand 
between herself and the fire, which for a mo- 
ment seemed to flicker and waver as though 
seen through water. Still she did not speak, 
and, emboldened perhaps by her unwonted 
silence, Jack took courage, and went on : 

" I scarcely know how to put it without 
seeming foolish, but I could not be off" 
thinking that this money ought to be kept 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 255 

safe for a rainy day. Supposing I were 
disabled, or you laid up, where would we all 
be if we had nothing saved ?" 

" You reckon the goodwill of such a house 
as this nothing, I suppose ?" interrupted Mrs. 
Jeffley, all the more angrily because she 
had felt so " soft and foolish for a minute." 
" We'd have been a nice set of paupers on 
the face of the earth all these years if it 
hadn't been for this house, I can tell you !" 

" I don't quite go with you there," said 
Jack. " We need not have been paupers, 
anyhow ; and though we have had plenty of 
food, we have had very little good of our 
home. For my own part, if I could choose, I 
would rather have a crust and a place, no 
matter how small, all to ourselves, than live 
on the best, and see you at the beck and call 
of every disreputable old sailor who can find 
money enough to pay for his quarters." 

" Yes, I think I see you sitting down to a 
crust and saying grace over it," said Mrs. 
Jeffley, in high dudgeon ; " and as for my 
boarders, I would have you know I allow no 
one disreputable inside my doors. If you 



256 MITRE COURT. 



had done as much for your family as I have, 
we should be very differently situated from 
what we are — very differently indeed !" 

" Somehow," said Jack, " I am always 
wrong'. Well, it may be I am as poor a 
fellow as you think, still, as men go, I haven't 
made you a bad husband. You might have 
got somebody richer, cleverer, handsomer, 
but you could never have found mortal could 
love you better. And you liked me once, 
Maria, you did ! What has come between us 
God only knows ! I am sure I don't. I wish 
1 did. I wish I could tell how to set matters 
right. But they will never come right now — 
never !" and, turning his face from the light, 
he burst into a passion of tears. 

"Jack — Jack!" cried his wife, frightened 
by this unprecedented demonstration, " don't 
do that ! You'll make yourself ill again — 
you'll throw yourself back ! Jack, do try — 
there's a dear !" and she laid a hand on his 
shoulder and stooped over him, while the 
man, utterly weak and broken, sobbed on. 

" What will the doctor say ?" exclaimed 
Mrs. Jeffley, fairly in despair. " What can I 



MR. JEFFLEY'S WINDFALL. 



do ? Jack — Jack, for my sake, for the 
children's sake " 

He had her hand now, and was kissing 
it passionately. The old days of courtship 
seemed to have come back again, only with 
the love which once had been sweet and silly 
intensified into tragedy. " Oh, my wife," he 
moaned — " oh, my wife !" 

The words seemed wrung from him in very 
anguish. 

" What is it, Jack ?" she asked, stooping 
over him very low, stooping till the face he 
still thought beautiful touched his hair. 

For answer, he released her hand, and tried 
feebly to pass his arm round her neck. 

"H— sh!" said Mrs. Jeffley. "There is 
some one at the door." 

Jack's arm dropped as if stricken. Mrs. 
Jeffley raised her head and cried, " Come 
in!" 

"If you please, 'm," explained the last new 
servant, " Mr. Katzen is back, and Miss Weir 
would like to see you if convenient." 



VOL. II. 36 




CHAPTER X. 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 




HEN Mrs. Jeffley left her husband, 
which she did immediately, only 
pausing to turn down the gas, and 
put a newspaper over the back of a chair she 
placed between him and the fire (unwonted 
attentions Jack, even though he did not look 
up, noticed and felt keenly) — she passed out 
into the hall, where she found Miss Weir 
standing on a mat at one side, and Mr. 
Katzen leaning up against the wall on the 
other side. They were within easy speaking 
distance, a distance of not more than three 
feet dividing them, and appeared to be 
utilizing their opportunity. 

" I am glad to see you both," said Mrs. 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 259 

Jeffley, extending a friendly hand to each — 
"Welcome home, Mr. Katzen. As for Miss 
Weir, she knows she is always welcome." 

" How is Mr. Jeffley ?" asked Abigail. 

" A little tired this evening — he has been 
out to-day, but on the whole better — yes, 
better certainly. Run upstairs and take off 
your bonnet, and then we will all have a cup 
of tea together. A sight of you will cheer 
my husband up." 

" Don't believe her, Abigail," interrupted 
the Consul. " Mr. Jeffley wants no one — 
can want no one to cheer him up but his own 
wife. You had better accept my invitation, 
and enjoy a cup of tea with me tete-a-tete. 
You shall see what a lot of nice things I 
have in my bag for good little girls." 

" When you find the good little girls, it 
will be time enough for you to exhibit your 
treasures," replied Miss Weir. 

" But where," asked Mr. Katzen, "could I 
find so good a little girl as you ?" 

" Good little girls are seen, not heard," 
returned Abigail, " but wherever I am seen, I 
am heard." 

36—2 



26o MITRE COURT. 



" That Is so, my dear, and it is your saucy 
tongue which adds such a dehght to Hfe when 
one is in your company." 

Mrs. Jeffley Hstened with some displeasure. 
This was a sort of thing she dimly felt to be 
improper, unless she were chief actress in the 
drama. Her idea of a good piece was that it 
should be all Mrs. Jeffley — and behold here 
was one put on the boards of her own house, 
in which no real part seemed assigned her, 
scarcely even that of spectator. 

This jesting pair — were they really only 
jesting ? — could do with her ; but not all the 
lady's egotism was able to blind her to the 
fact that they could do just as well without 
her. 

An uneasy feeling crept over her, the same 
sort of chill which might assail a somewhat 
passie prima donna if she were suddenly to 
be transported from a loyal audience to some 
dreadful music-hall, where no one knew her, 
and the pet of the period was delighting her 
especial admirers with an archly comic song. 

Mrs. Jeffley had but just stepped off the 
boards of her own theatre, where half un- 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 261 

consciously she played the part of heroine, in 
what would have been described on huge 
posters as a thrilling domestic drama, and 
behold this was the nice little after-piece on 
which it seemed to be supposed she could 
look with approval. 

" I did not think it was quite right," she 
said afterwards when referring to the matter ; 
"at any rate, I knew I could not have such 
goings on just inside my front door." 

" Run upstairs, Miss Weir," she repeated, 
with an effort to seem genial which was 
creditable under the circumstances ; "take no 
notice of his folly. I will be after you in a 
moment." 

" Thank you greatly," answered Abby, 
"but I cannot stop — •! cannot indeed. I 
only wanted to explain to you that I have 
enough material left to make one smaller 
frock. Shall I use it up, or would you rather 
keep the piece in case of accidents ?" 

" She would rather keep the piece, of 
course," interrupted Mr. Katzen. " Don't 
you know how fond Mrs. Jeffley is of 
planning, and patching, and cheeseparing ? 



262 MITRE COURT. 



No liberality about her — likes to see the 
children's clothes well darned : that sort of 
thing." 

"If I had been fonder of 'that sort of 
thing,' perhaps I might be better off now," 
said Mrs. Jeffley tartly. " However, it is 
never too late to mend. Make up the little 
frock by all means, Miss Weir, only do not 
stand there. If you would rather not go 
upstairs, have tea in your bonnet. There is 
no one in the parlour but Mr. Jeffley ; tea 
will be ready in five minutes." 

" I must not wait, thank you — I would 
rather not indeed," answered Abigail. " I 
will say good-evening now, please." 

" Don't hinder her," interposed Mr. Katzen, 
as Mrs. Jeffley was about recommencing 
her hospitable entreaties. " She has to 
be back in time to see that the kettle is 
boiling when the old gentleman comes 
home." 

"What old gentleman ?" asked the girl. 
' The young gentleman then," laughed 
Mr. Katzen. 

" If you mean Mr. Brisco," said Abigail, 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 263 

" it SO happens that he will not be home 
to-night." 

"Ho! ho!" exclaimed the Consul, "what, 
are you all alone in the old house, dear Abby ?" 

" No, Mr. Katzen. I am not all alone in 
the old house. I am not so fond of being 
alone in it as I was once. Miss Greaves is 
stopping with me." 

" Miss Greaves cannot be much of a com- 
panion — I shall come round presently to 
cheer you up a little." 

" If you do — you will not get in." 

" That is right — you keep him at a 
distance," put in Mrs. Jeffley. 

" Ah ! I have never yet given up my latch- 
key," said Mr. Katzen. 

"Your latch-key won't take down the 
chain," retorted Abigail. " I really must go 
now, Mrs. Jeffley. Good-evening. — Good- 
evening, Mr. Katzen." 

" Wait but one moment," entreated that 
gentleman, " and I will walk round with you, 
I only go to get a muffler — the wind has 
changed, and my throat feels the London 
damp." 



^64 MITRE COURT. 



Abigail did not answer. She stood watching 
him while he ran upstairs, then, saying to 
Mrs. Jeffley, " I shan't wait," she de- 
parted. 

Before she could have reached the bottom 
of the court Mr. Katzen was in the hall 
again. 

" Where is she ?" he asked. 

"Gone," answered Mrs. Jeffley, with a 
spiteful smile. " She would not wait, and 
quite right too." 

Mr. Katzen did not stop to hear the end 
of the sentence. In a moment he was out 
of Fowkes' Buildings and hurrying along 
Great Tower Street. " The little imp," he 
muttered — " the cunning little minx — how 
fast she must have gone ! Never mind, I 
shall catch her yet." 

But, as it happened, he did not catch her — 
even in Love Lane. The old house was in 
utter darkness. It being Saturday, the offices 
had long been deserted, and not a ray of 
light gleamed from any window. He stood 
on the top of the high flight of steps and 
knocked without eliciting any answer — then 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 265 



he tried his key, but the catch was up ; again 
he knocked — again and again he rang — till it 
seemed as if every room in the house echoed 
the sound. 

Angry and baffled, he at length retraced 
his way to Fowkes' Buildings. "Ah! my 
dear," he thought, " you have your way now ; 
when it is my turn, you shall see. No doubt, 
hidden behind the door, you were laughing 
in your sleeve at my discomfiture. It is all 
very well for a while — but you may go too 
far." 

Had he known that Abigail, instead of 
being hidden behind the door, was not even 
in the house, he would have felt more con- 
fident even than he did that her conduct was 
not at all well, and that she was going very 
far indeed. It never occurred to him she 
could have turned in any other direction than 
back to her form ; yet, in truth, the moment 
she found herself in Great Tower Street, she 
scudded off in the direction of Trinity Square 
as fast as her active young legs could carry 
her. 

At the back of All Hallows she dodged up 



266 MITRE COURT. 



a. paved passage from whence, threading her 
way through Seething Lane and Muscovy 
Court, she at length, sometimes running, 
sometimes walking, arrived by no short cut 
in Swan Street ; keeping the dark side of the 
thoroughfare, she hurried on till, sharply 
turning the corner of Great Prescot Street, 
she ran against a man coming from the 
opposite direction. 

" Take care !" he exclaimed. " I hope you 
have not hurt yourself. PV/iy, Abby " 

" Oh, Frank," she said, and then stood 
silent, trembling a little and waiting to 
recover her breath. 

" What is the matter ?" he asked. " Why 
are you so late, and why were you racing 
at such a speed ?" 

" I was detained at Mrs. Jeffley's," she 
answered, panting ; " and I thought you 
would be waiting, and " 

" Let us walk on slowly," he suggested. 
^' Why did you go to Mrs. Jeffley's .?" 

" I wanted to speak to her — and I could 
not. I had to come away — Mr. Katzen was 
there." 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 267 

" He is back, is he ? — and he accompanied 
you on your road, I suppose ?" 

" No ; he said he would go back to Love 
Lane with me ; but I managed to slip off 
without him." 

"You were afraid, however, he might be 
following you, I suppose ?" 

" Yes, I frightened myself — but I am not 
frightened now," she added, " I do not care. 
As I came along I made up my mind — 
quite." 

" Made up your mind on what subject ?" 

" That I would meet you no more in this 
way, Frank." 

" Never again ?" 

" Never again at all. If you really cared 
for me you would not ask me to do it. It is 
not right, and what is not right " 

" Must be wrong," finished the young 
man. " Did you find all this out since you 
left Fowkes' Buildings ?" 

" I found it out long ago," she answered ; 
"but I was a coward, I would not confess 
the truth even to myself. I said, ' Frank 
must know best. He would not ask me to 



268 MITRE COURT. 



meet him in this way unless he had some 
good reason ;' but to-night I see the whole 
thing differently. As I came along I felt so 
lonely, so desolate, so deceitful." 

" Have you been deceiving me ?" he asked. 

" No, not you ; there is nothing about 
myself I have not told you, except " 

" That you care for me no longer." 

She shook her head. '' I do care for 
you just the same as ever ; but I can't go on 
with this secrecy. It is treacherous. What 
would Mr. Brisco think of me if he knew ?" 

" Perhaps he would not take the matter so 
very much to heart after all." 

" He might not take it to heart — there is 
no one in the wide world likely to take to 
heart what I do or leave undone — but he 
would despise me — and quite right too. I 
ought not to have been sly and underhand. 
And, oh, Frank ! you should not have asked 
me to be false. If I were your sister, and 
you knew she was meeting a man as I have 
been meeting you, what should you say to 
her and him ?" 

" I cannot tell." 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 269 

" Yes, you can tell ; you would say of them 
both just what Mrs. Jeffley and Mr. Katzen 
would say of us if they suspected anything of 
the sort. There was a time when I thought 
there could be no harm in it all, but I know 
better now." 

He drew a long breath. " Perhaps you 
are wise," he answered. " Indeed, I am sure 
you are wise to have nothing more to do 
with such an unfortunate devil as I am." 

" Unfortunate !" she repeated. " Now you 
have got this wonderful situation, and things 
are going so smoothly with you ! What can 
you mean ?" 

" That I am unfortunate," he said doggedly. 
" My whole life long, if a piece of what I 
believed to be good luck came in my way, it 
was always sure to be followed by some 
greater stroke of evil." 

" What has happened to you now ?" she 
asked. 

" I cannot tell you, Abby, more than this. 
You know I hoped when I got this berth to 
be able very shortly to make a clean breast 
to Mr. Brisco and ask him for you." 



270 MITRE COURT. 



"Yes — I — know," she said faintly. 

" Well, I can't do that now. I do not 
know when I shall stand in a position to 
justify the hope that he will listen to me." 

" Oh !" It was the only word Abby could 
speak, the mean, dirty street seemed to be 
whirling round and round with her, and her 
heart beat quicker and more loudly than it 
had done even when with twinkling feet she 
was flying from Mr. Katzen's fancied pursuit. 

"You see now," went on Frank, "why I 
said you were wise." 

" I am trying to understand," she answered, 
in a low, strained voice. " I know what I 
meant ; I want now to know what you 
mean." 

" You meant you were tired of our clan- 
destine courtship ; what I mean is, that I see 
no likelihood of being able to go with you 
hand-in-hand to Mr. Brisco and make a full 
and free confession of the great sin we have 
committed in caring for one another." 

"You are really serious!" 

" Serious ! Is it likely I should joke about 
losing you ? Does a man joke when he feels 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 271 

he is about to have the one thing he values 
wrested from him ?" 

" But, Frank, why should you lose me ?" 

" You yourself have said' " 

They walked on a little farther in utter 
silence ; then she stopped. 

" I think I had better go home now," she 
remarked, putting out her hand, which had 
suddenly grown cold as ice. 

He did not answer "No" or "Yes," he 
only took her hand and held it fast. The 
girl did not try to extricate it ; she stood 
like one numbed. She had not expected 
perhaps to be taken so strictly at her word. 
Explanations, remonstrances, reproaches, en- 
treaties — all sours and sweets, all the fennel 
and honey which we are taught in books is 
the food of love — she was prepared to meet ; 
but this awful acquiescence — this unquestion- 
ing acceptance of her expressed decision — 
pierced her heart. 

Yet had she known — it is just thus that 
lovers mostly part in real life. 

Without thought they break the mirror in 
which they have so often fondly contemplated 



272 MITRE COURT. 



the fair future they trust to walk through side 
by side for Hfe, and the shattered atoms He 
strewed around them before they reaHze they 
have done what never can be undone — 
destroyed something very beautiful it is 
beyond their power to restore. 

Dimly Abigail began to comprehend some- 
thing of all this — of how lives are wrecked, 
and lovers parted, and human ships, freighted 
with rich and goodly cargoes, lost. 

She knew great sorrows came to some 
people, but it had never occurred to her till 
then that such cruel suffering could come to 
her. 

What had she done — oh, what had she 
done, unconsciously, her heart was already 
asking, that it should thus be rent ? In its 
wild fright and anguish it was beating against 
the iron bars of a cage made by its own free 
will. To be taken at her word thus — well, if 
he could part with her, best so — best by far. 
After a little she would argue it all out quietly 
by herself; but just then she felt dulled and 
chill. A noise inaudible to the outer world, 
but maddening to her, was going on in her 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 273 

brain. Fifty hammers might have been 
beating upon it and confused her less. 

" Come on with me a little farther," he 
said at last ; " it cannot signify now." 

" No," she agreed mechanically. 

No indeed, it did not signify — not at all — 
if Mr. Brisco, and Mr. Katzen, and Mrs. 
Jeffley, and the inhabitants of the three 
parishes in which she might be said to live, 
had all appeared before her at that moment ; 
she would not have cared. The greater in- 
cludes the less ; in the broad sea of trouble 
now sweeping over the sweet promise of her 
love, what signified such wretched trifles as 
man's opinion, and woman's doubts ? 

She would never walk beside him any 
more — that was how her thought ran — and 
oh ! how sweet their walks had been, haloed 
with that light which never yet was seen on 
land or sea — that light which changed the 
narrow City lanes into pleached alleys, roofed 
with greenery, bordered with flowers, turfed 
with moss and thyme ! 

They had skirted Goodman's Fields, where 
once Stow was wont to repair for milk from 

VOL. II. Zl 



274 MITRE COURT. 



the farm, now an aggregation of closely 
packed houses, and were in Leman Street. 

To Abigail all ways seemed alike. When 
sentence has been delivered, it matters little 
which route is taken to the scaffold. 

Still Frank did not speak. In silence he 
turned into a little graveyard which might 
have been out of the world for all signs of 
life it contained. 

The quiet dead who lay there, long buried, 
long forgotten, made no stir, no moan. 
Happy dead, thought Abigail — who could 
suffer and fret no more ; man might not hurt, 
or love touch them. They walked to the end 
of the court, then Frank suddenly stopped. 

" Abigail," he said hoarsely, and then, be- 
fore she could answer him, he threw his arms 
round the girl and strained her to his heart. 

" I cm£t give you up, my darling," he 
murmured, passionately kissing her over and 
over again. 

It was the first time he had so held — the 
first time he had ever kissed her. " My love 
—my dear — my own," and then, half ashamed 
and repenting of his vehemence, he would 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 275 

have released her, but she nestled her face 
against his shoulder, while her whole frame 
was shaken with sobs. 

" Forgive me," he whispered, " I could not 
help it. Oh ! sweet, I might give up my 
life, but not you. Look at me, you are not 
angry ? You know, Abigail, I would not vex 
you for the world." 

She did not say a word, yet she gave him 
the sweetest, most natural answer possible, by 
lifting her face to his bent down over hers, 
and letting her lips just touch his own. 

Poor lonely dead ! long buried, long for- 
gotten ; who could never again feel the 
rapture which filled those two young hearts 
to overflowing — who had done with the sun 
shine as with the sorrow, for whom, if there 
were no more earthly mourning, there could 
be no more earthly joy. 

Wearily and with leaden feet she had tra- 
versed those streets through which they 
returned slowly, in order to lengthen that 
delicious hour of reconciliation. 

"What was it which came between us?" 
Abigail at last asked wonderingly. 



276 MITRE COURT. 



" Why trouble ourselves about that ?" 
he answered. " Nothing shall ever come 
between us again." 

So they walked on, talking folly as lovers 
do, repeating the old, old story — old as the 
world, new as to-day — ringing every possible 
change on that sweet peal of bells which 
pours forth such music on the lightest touch 
of inexperienced hands. 

" Frank," said the girl at last, " I want to 
tell you something that I have kept back 
from you. Something that I did once." 

" Something very bad ?" he asked tenderly, 
yet with a sinking heart. 

" I am afraid, very bad." 

*' When did you commit this great sin ?" 
He tried to put the question easily, even 
airily, but the attempt proved a conspicuous 
failure. 

She averted her head a little. " I was a child 
— I had not been long in the old house " 

" I want to hear nothing about it, then," 
he interrupted in a tone of glad relief. " For 
God's sake, Abby, bury that wretched past, 
and don't put up even a foot-stone to its 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 277 

memory. Why should you make yourself 
miserable by talking about that terrible 
time ? I am steadfastly determined you shall 
not talk, to me at any rate, about it." 

She sighed softly while she murmured, 
" Very well." What would Mr. Katzen have 
said to this obedient little maiden ? Surely 
he must have exclaimed, " Here is a change- 
ling ; this can't be Abigail !" 

" Sometimes I wish," she began, and then 
paused, hesitating. 

" What do you sometimes wish ?" 
" That you would talk to me about your- 
sel/r 

"It seems to me I have few other topics of 
conversation," he observed evasively. 

" Ah ! I do not mean about yourself 
latterly," she explained. " I should like to 
know all that has happened to you since the 
beginning. What is the first thing you 
remember ?" 

" Meeting Abigail Weir," he replied. '^ I 
date from that minute. I want to remember 
no other event in my life. I only began to 
live then. I had suffered before ; but that 



278 MITRE COURT. 

day the blessed light dawned upon me 
existence was worth having " 

" But Frank " 

'* My dearest, listen to me. I have not 
always been a ' good boy.' I have been a 
bad boy, on the contrary, and if it had not 
chanced that I was pulled up in time, you and 
I should never have known each other. I 
don't mean," he added, seeing the pained and 
startled look in the girl's face, " that I have 
committed any great crime — but I did things 
I ought not to have done, and I left undone 
those which I ouofht to have done. I won't 
go on with my profitless confession. Let us 
agree to abandon retrospect " 

"Very well," she said again, but she said 
the words sorrowfully. 

" Does it seem hard to you ?" he asked with 
a quick remorse. " Well, then, I promise 
that some day you shall know all. If I can 
remember even how many apples I stole when 
a schoolboy, you shall have a full list. Are 
you satisfied now ?" 

" Never tell me anything if it hurts you," 
she answered softly. They threaded the 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 279 

courts that lie so close together near the 
Trinity House, sauntering through them over 
and over again. Then they walked many 
times around the square so called. It seemed 
as though they could not bear to part. They 
talked scarcely at all ; their love had entered 
upon another stage. It was enough for them 
to be together ; speech was unnecessary, 
speech would have been poor indeed to 
express what two so fond, so foolish, felt. A 
lonely young man, solitary in a great city ; as 
lonely a young girl, earning a poor living by 
her own exertions, dependent upon a stranger 
for the shelter she called home. Adam and 
Eve wandering among the fair flowers of a 
sinless Eden were not more solitary than this 
pair, desolate, save for each other, in the 
wilderness of wicked London. 

" I must be going, Frank," said Abigail at 
last. " Miss Greaves will be wondering 
where I can have got to." 

He did not immediately reply. Instead, 
he looked at the girl wistfully. 

"So we are to meet no more ?" he said at last. 

" You won't ask me," she answered. 



28o MITRE COURT. 



'' No^ I won't ask you ;" and they drew a 
little nearer to Thames Street. 

"I am afraid ours will have to be a long 
engagement," he resumed, after a pause. 

" I do not mind how long," she said. " But 
perhaps, after a time, you will let me tell Mr. 
Brisco ?" 

" Well — no. I think matters must wait, so 
far as he is concerned." 

" Do you know, Frank, I cannot help 
fancying you are wrong ? I am sure Mr. 
Brisco would not object to you in the least — 
why should he ? What I fear he never could 
forgive would be our deception ; I am obliged 
to call it deception, though we never meant to 
deceive him." 

" / did," corrected the young man. 

" Well, at all events, do not let us deceive 
him any longer. From the beginning, the 
one thing he impressed upon me was the 
necessity of telling the truth." 

" Oh ! it was, was it ?" 

" Yes ; and that is the reason I do so dread 
his finding out anything about this, except 
from ourselves. He might forgive me now if 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 281 

I explained how it all came about ; but he 
would never speak to me again, I truly believe, 
if he heard about you from any one else. I 
know him thoroughly, Frank — indeed I do !" 

" You know nothing about Mr. Brisco," 
said the young man, a little roughly. 

" If I do not know him, who should ?" she 
asked. 

" That Is a question I really cannot answer," 
replied Mr. Frank ; " but I feel confident you 
have as little real acquaintance with his 
character as you had, poor child, the first night 
he found you starved and sick, lying like a 
hunted animal in the old house." 

Abigail bit her lip. There was something 
in her lover's tone which hurt her ; there had 
often been something in it lately, when speak- 
ing of Mr. Brisco, she failed to understand. 

" Whether I understand him or not," she 
answered a little hotly, " I know he has been 
kind to me. I owe him a debt of gratitude I 
can never repay, and it seems to me a poor 
return to make for all his goodness to keep 
such a secret from him." 

The young fellow smiled a little sadly. 



282 MITRE COURT. 

" Nothing was ever to come between us 
again," he quoted ; " nothing shall ever come 
between us again. If you feel that it would 
be best for me to speak to Mr. Brisco at once, 
I will do so the moment he returns. I have 
my own opinion on the subject, but let that 
pass. I will do just what you please." 

" No, no !" she answered eagerly ; " it 
must be as you please. The only thing which 
perplexes me is that a short time ago you 
were anxious to enter into your new occupa- 
tion, so as to tell Mr. Brisco — about — me, 
and now " 

" All that is changed, you mean, I sup- 
pose ?" he said, as she hesitated. 

" Yes, you have been vexed or discouraged 
in some way. Are you not doing so well as 
you expected ?" 

" Quite as well ; but I know now how poor 
I am really, spite of this promotion — the sort 
of reception I should meet with if I asked 
Mr. Brisco for you." 

"■ But, Frank, you are rich in comparison 
with us." . 

" Are you sure of that ?" 



THE OLD, OLD STORY. 283 

" Certain ! Who could be poorer than we 
are ?" 

" Are you sure Mr. Brisco is so badly off ?" 

" Of course I am. I do not see how he 
could well be worse off." 

" And if I told you that he might live 
differently, that he possesses the means to 
live differently, you would not believe me ?" 

" I should believe you believed what you 
said ; but that would not make the statement 
true." 

" Have you never heard or read of such a 
thing as a man grudging himself the common 
necessaries of existence, even though worth 
thousands." 

" Of course ; but not such a man as Mr. 
Brisco. He is no miser." 

" How do you know ?" 

" Misers hide things. They are like mag- 
pies ; they hide for concealment's sake. 
They pick up pieces of iron, and store away 
old bones, and put away money in all sorts of 
odd places." 

" Yes ?" 

" And Mr. Brisco hides away nothing. 



284 MITRE court: 



He has only one little drawer which he keeps 
locked, and there is nothing in it but papers. 
I have seen him open it often. There are 
those old trunks I told you about ; anyone 
could look over every article they contain. 
Some person has been hoaxing you, Frank." 

" Well, we shall see. But suppose a day 
should come when you found Mr. Brisco had 
not been so poor, after all — that during the 
time he was living meanly and meagrely him- 
self, and only giving you enough food to keep 
body and soul together, he could have 
afforded a decent expenditure — what would 
your feelings be towards him then T 

" It is an impossible case," answered 
Abigail ; " but, if it were possible, I might 
feel sorry, but I could not feel angry. Why 
do you say such hard, bitter things to-night ; 
why are you trying to harden my heart 
against a man who has never done evil 
to me ? Supposing even he were rich, 
had I a right to his money ? Am I his kith 
or kin that I should say, ' You did not give 
me enough' — I, with whom he shared his 
store — I, who was thankful to crawl into 



THE OLD^ OLD STORY. 285 

his house out of the icy cold and cruel 
damp ?" 

" God bless you, Abby !" cried the young 
man, as she paused, breathless and excited. 
" You are indeed grateful for small mer- 
cies. 

" Do you call them small ? I look back 
and feel as if I could not be grateful enough. 
Frank, it is not kind of you ; it is not right. 
If I could only make you see Mr. Brisco as I 
see him — only make you know him as I know 
him !" 

" You would be able to perform a miracle," 
interrupted Frank ; " but I won't vex you 
any more about him, though I may tell you I 
would give a great deal to be able to think of 
your benefactor as you do." 

" Ah ! then it will all come right some day. 
Do not listen to what any evil-disposed 
person may have to say. I think I know 
where you got this absurd notion — at the 
Jeffleys', was it not ? Very likely Mrs. 
Childs has originated some fancy of the sort. 
Say it was Mrs. Childs, Frank, do !" 

"Well, perhaps Mrs. Childs may have had 



286 MITRE COURT. 



some share in originating the idea," he an- 
swered slowly. 

" I thought it was the Childs' sign-manual 
and superscription. Good-night — good-bye. 
Don't think any more evil of Mr. Brisco ;" 
and, without giving him time to answer, she 
flitted rapidly away. 

Walking swiftly, she turned from Lower 
Thames Street into the covered, paved, and 
vile-smelling alley which leads to the back 
entrance of Sir Christopher's old house. 
Arrived there, she did not trip up the steps 
and demand ingress at the door where 
Mr. Katzen had sought admission in vain. 
Another lock yielded quite easily to her key, 
and by the kitchen staircase she made her 
way into the hall. 

In the panelled dining-room, beside an 
almost expiring fire, Miss Greaves sat fast 
asleep. Her candle was burning down into 
the socket ; her book had fallen on the floor ; 
her mouth was open, and her cap awry. 

" Bless me !" she exclaimed, starting as 
Abigail crossed the room. " I think I must 
have dropped oft" for a moment." 




CHAPTER XI, 



THE NEW LOAN. 




It was midsummer. The year's 
golden prime had come. In 
London the heat could only be 
described as suffocating ; not a breath of air 
seemed to temper the oven-like atmosphere. 
Into Fowkes' Buildings, as though it were 
some dim grot, Mrs. Jeffley's mates and 
captains turned gratefully, taking off their 
hats and mopping their foreheads with 
gorgeous pocket-handkerchiefs, while they 
walked leisurely up the court. But even in 
that retreat, where the sun's rays scarcely 
ever penetrated, the temperature was extra- 
ordinarily high. Mrs. Jeffley declared she 
felt at her wits' end in the way of catering. 



288 MITRE COURT. 



"Butchers' meat," she said, "will scarcely 
keep till we can get it down before the fire ; 
and as for bacon, there is not a gammon 
rasher to be had in the City for love or 
money ; and my people will eat nothing else." 

But for strong drinks, indeed, poor Mrs. 
Jeffley's position would have been pitiable. 
To cool themselves her gentlemen imbibed 
fiery liquors, diluted with as little water as 
was practicable ; indeed, an opinion prevailed 
among all the inmates of her house that 
water was well-nigh as dangerous as poison, 
and required to be used with like caution. 
At various times of the day and night, re- 
marks were thrown out as to the known bad 
character of water, and the ill-effects certain 
to ensue from trifling with it. This was the 
reason why Captain Hassell and others of 
the same stamp were always about that 
period in a state of torrid heat. 

" If you struck a match near one of them," 
observed Mr. Katzen to Frank Scott, "he'd 
light like gunpowder." 

It was weather in which the German 
revelled. Trade chanced to be good — ice 



THE NE W LOAN. 289 



plentiful, claret-cup procurable at every tavern. 
What could a man — and a foreigner — want 
more ? 

He was doinsf well at last. The tide had 
turned — that tide which he once began to 
think meant to go on ebbing for ever — and 
the waves of Fortune were flowing surely, 
though in his impatience he sometimes 
imagined slowly, to the bare shore on which 
he had stood for so long, contemplating a sad 
expanse of barren sand. 

Now he could afford to be insolent, or in- 
different, or patronising, just as the mood 
took him, to those who had once mocked his 
ill-success and underrated his powers of re- 
cuperation. No sneaking through back 
streets now ; no sudden disappearance into 
the shade of friendly courts and gloom of 
mysterious alleys ; no effort to escape in- 
opportune meetings with too familiar duns ; 
no painful smiles or hastily assumed cheer- 
fulness of manner. Just then Mr. Katzen 
felt he could almost have turned his heart 
inside out for general inspection. 

For once, it was so free from guile, so 

VOL. II. 38 



290 MITRE COURT. 



clear of reproach, so full of the milk of human 
kindness, so honest, so clean. 

The sensation must have been novel. In 
all his life, indeed, the Consul had never 
known his body inhabited by a like spirit, 
and occasionally he found the new tenant 
strange to the extent of being disagreeable. 

But he made the most out of his unwonted 
position. Where (in the City) men do con- 
gregate, Mr. Katzen was generally to be 
found. About The Exchange and Bartholo- 
mew Lane and Throgmorton Street, the 
Consul for New Andalusia flitted like a bat. 
Persons who had business in Cornhill and 
Lombard Street met him in those thorough- 
fares ; they saw him conversing with men 
who were known to take their thousands and 
tens of thousands with less fuss than a beggar 
makes about looking at the reverse side of a 
penny ; old creditors, who had lost money 
by Mr. Katzen in former days, and shown 
him the cold shoulder ever since, began 
to nod and smile, and make friendly ad- 
vances ; some even from afar shaking those 
two fingers at him which in the City consti- 



THE NEW LOAN. 291 

tute an outward and visible sign of close 
acquaintance. The manager of the bank 
where once his modest balance was scanned 
scornfully, and clerks smiled covertly to each 
other as they " referred back " when a cheque 
of the Consul's was presented across the 
counter, began to say, — " How de do, Mr. 
Katzen ?" if he chanced to espy the little 
foreigner when passing through to his especial 
sanctum after luncheon. 

As marriage is popularly supposed to make 
honest women of women who stand in great 
need of such rehabilitation, in like manner, 
money reputation, which in the City so often 
supplies the place of virtue, was, in Mr. 
Katzen's case, about to be taken as twenty 
shillings in the pound in settlement of all the 
Consul's former moral bankruptcies. 

That he would never pay any old debt he 
could help paying was well understood ; but 
that understanding made no difference. Ere 
long he would be up in the world again, and 
accordingly many hands were held out to help 
him in his ascent. 

"Wonderful fellow — shrewd fellow! No 

38-2 



292 MITRE COURT. 



matter the depth of water into which he is 
thrown, he is sure to rise and strike out for 
shore — ay, and get to shore too ! By Jove ! 
he is the cleverest Httle vagabond ! No use 
trying to shut him up in a box. He just waits 
his time, and then — hey presto ! — he is out 
like a conjuring trick, his pockets full of 
sovereigns and his head full of schemes." 

So ran the comments, which delighted Mr. 
Katzen, as was natural, seeing they contained 
precisely the sort of praise he valued. 

Had the wisdom of Solomon been attri- 
buted to him, he would have deemed it 
foolishness in comparison with the ability to 
rig the market or run up stock. 

He experienced a keen sense of triumph 
when his dear friend Victor sent a note round 
to Mitre Court, asking him to call. Mr. 
Katzen bore no malice towards the excellent 
Bernberg, whose astuteness had played its 
owner false for once ; nevertheless, he re- 
turned an answer, stating he was too much 
enofaofed to Q^et to Alderman's Walk ; but he 
was usually to be found at his office between 
the hours of one and two. 



THE NEW LOAN. 293 

Punctually at half-past one on the day 
following, Mr. Bernberg appeared in the best 
of tempers, in the most conciliatory of moods. 

"Well," he began, "and how are you 
getting on ? Making your fortune ?" 

" That is so likely !" returned Mr. Katzen. 

" You will manage to net something satis- 
factory out of the New Andalusian Loan," 
said Mr, Bernberg. 

For answer, Mr. Katzen merely shrugged 
his shoulders. 

" Come !" expostulated his friend. " Why 
not be frank with me ?" 

"Frank!" repeated the Consul, turning 
out the palms of his hands, as though to say 
— see the very inside of Katzen. " Am I 
ever other than frank ? If you doubt, how- 
ever, look at the men who are floating this 
loan, and ask yourself how much is likely to 
be left for me." 

*' They do expect a stiff commission then .■* 
I suspected as much." 

" Ach, mein Gott, you may well say stiff! 
However, if my people do not wince, why 
should I ? What makes me feel the thingf so 



294 MITRE COURT. 



deeply is — take any nasty little bankrupt state 
— in debt up to its ears — that has never paid, 
and never will, and never can pay a farthing-, 
and see what per cent, will be charged for 
floating that loan. Why, Capel Court would 
be fipfhtinsf to see who should obtain the 
privilege at a half, or, maybe, an eighth per 
cent." 

" Le premier pas. You remember ? Al- 
ways the case." 

" And a countrv like New Andalusia," went 
on Mr, Katzen, "without an encumbrance on 
her revenue, abounding in wealth, which 
literally merely wants picking up." 

" Why does she not pick it up then ?" 
" Because she has not the means of doing 
so. You cannot develop wealth without 
money ; even gold mines need capital to 
work them — eh, Bernberg ?" 

" True ; and so those excellent persons 
who have taken New Andalusia in charge 
refused to introduce without a heavy con- 
sideration ?" 
" That is so." 
" What a pity you did not come to me. I 



THE NEW LOAN. 295 

am poor myself, but still I do know a few in- 
dividuals who keep big balances, and are glad 
to find legitimate outlets for them." 

"Ah ! my dear friend, but I do not like to 
be troubling you always." 

" I suppose New Andalusia really does pre- 
sent a fine opening for investment .'*" 

"I suppose so; you always said it did; 
you ought to be a better authority even 
than I." 

"You have a good memory. I had for- 
gotten. Those gold mines will yield large 
returns to some one yet." 

" The New Andalusia soil is as valuable 
above ground as it is below." 

"What a country it must be!" 

" And the capabilities of its land sink into 
insignificance when compared with the pro- 
ducts of its waters," went on the Consul, as 
if they had been singing a part-song. 

" Bless me, you don't ' 

" Yes, I do," interrupted Mr. Katzen. 
" There was one thing you missed, when you 
surveyed New Andalusia ; you left Gulf 
Gitana out of the reckoning." 



296 MITRE COURT. 



" Gulf Gitana is not in New Andalusia !" 

"It is, though, up to a certain point — the 
valuable side belongs to us. Go home and 
open your Gazetteer ; then ask any pearl 
merchant, any coral merchant, any sponge 
importer, about the Gitana pearls, corals, 
sponges, and listen to what you will hear." 

*' Of course I have given but little atten- 
tion to the subject." 

"And it is too late to attend to it now," 
said Mr. Katzen. 

"My dear fellow, I can only repeat that I 
am sorry you did not come to me in the first 
instance." 

" You might not have seen, as you do now, 
if I had come," answered the Consul. "Any- 
how, whatever you might have done or 
thought once, it is too late to do or think 
now." 

" The loan is being subscribed for satis- 
factorily, no doubt ?" 

" I believe so. I have very little to do 
with it except in name. A first instalment 
goes out soon, I hear." 

" I wish I had some spare cash," said Mr. 



THE NEW LOAN. 297 



Bernberg, " I might be tempted to speculate 
in a few bonds." 

" Don't be tempted," returned the other ; 
" you can find far better investments for your 
money than a poor five per cent." 

" Perhaps 1 can," agreed Mr. Bernberg, 
struck apparently by the depth and beauty of 
his friend's idea. " Perhaps I can." 

"■ I am very sure you can," said Mr. 
Katzen. "By-the-bye, I must not forget that 
I still keep a little in your debt. I had best 
give you something now." 

" Thank you ; money is always useful. 
You can't say I have dunned you much 
for it." 

" No, you have not dunned me ; it would 
not have been any use if you had.'' 

" Come, Katzen, confess ; you are coining 
out of this loan ?" 

" Upon my sacred word of honour, no. 
How should I coin ? Of course I shall 
expect something for my time and trouble, 
but beyond that, all the good likely to come 
to me out of it is indirect. I have irons of 
my own in the fire." 



298 MITRE COURT. 



" Poker, shovel, tongs, as somebody says," 
suggested Mr. Bernberg. 

" No — no, just little things that help to 
keep the pot boiling. I have had to work 
hard to get it to boil at all. Since I came 
to London, no time has been so uphill as the 
last year." 

" It had not proved so, had you listened to 
reason." 

"It is best not to go over all that old 
ground again," and Mr. Katzen took out his 
cheque-book and began to write. 

" Do you want a clerk ?" asked Mr. Bern- 
berg, as he watched this operation. " I know 
a young fellow who would suit you to per- 
fection." 

" I have a clerk who suits me to perfec- 
tion," answered the Consul without look- 
ing up. 

" How did you get him ?" 

" By chance — he was out of a job, and glad 
to come to me." 

" What is this paragon's name ?" 

•' Rothsattel." 

" Rothsattel !" repeated Mr. Bernberg, 



THE NEW LOAN. 299 

bursting into a nasty laugh. " Which of 
them ?" 

" Conrad. Why do you laugh ?" 

" At the notion of your having one of the 
Rothsattels." 

" Why, do you know them ?" 

" Know them ! Of course I know them. 
I congratulate you on not having the very 
biggest rogue in London for a clerk. The 
three brothers are the three degrees of com- 
parison, big — bigger — biggest. Your man 
is the first." 

" He suits me excellently well." 

" I do not doubt it. I do not doubt it at 
all." 

There are times when discretion is truly the 
better part of valour; and Mr. Katzen, feel- 
ing this was one of them, refrained from re- 
questing any explanation of Mr. Bernberg's 

meaning. 

As for that gentleman, he went away quite 
satisfied Mr. Katzen had found a gold mine 
on his own account, and was working it 
satisfactorily, wherein he chanced just then 
to be mistaken, for although the Consul was 



300 MITRE COURT. 



doing very well, for him, other people were 
doing much better. New Andalusia had not 
yet proved an El Dorado for her enthusiastic 
admirer. No great amount of money was 
even passing through his hands ; but enough 
found its way to Mitre Court to make matters 
very easy for him. He could speculate a 
little, and he did. Every venture proved 
fortunate. Luck had not stayed in the old 
house in Botolph Lane, but followed him up 
Cheapside. 

No counting of shillings now ! No necessity 
for regarding watch, or ring, or studs as 
articles on which advances might be procured. 
He had repaid Mrs. Jeffley ; he had offered 
Mr. Brisco his hundred pounds with a profit 
of ten added, showing him how the profit had 
been made by a careful system of buying and 
selling, but not deeming it necessary to add 
that the money had really never been invested 
in any better security than his own waistcoat 
pocket. 

New Andalusia expressed herself as well 
satisfied with her Consul. No country 
perhaps was ever so much surprised as that 



THE NEW LOAN. 



favoured land when first the suggestion of a 
loan reached her shores. In wildest dreams 
such a notion had not entered the minds of 
her rulers. They were so much astonished 
indeed, that their acceptance of Mr. Katzen's 
scheme seemed almost cold. They had no 
objection, they stated, to a loan. 

" I should think not," commented their 
Consul ; " they would be simpletons indeed if 
they had." 

All in the fine summer weather, therefore, 
Mr. Katzen was busy as a bee seeking honey. 
He gave himself no rest, he grudged no 
trouble. He drew out a prospectus at once 
plain and convincing ; he worked, as he him- 
self said, like a pack-horse ; but with all his 
endeavours, money did not come pouring In as 
he had hoped it might. He had got good men 
to float the loan — good respectable men who 
had characters to lose, and who would not 
have connected themselves with anything 
disreputable — and yet even their names failed 
to draw the British public to any great ex- 
tent. 

Something more needed to be done, and in 



302 'MITRE COURT. 



the golden summer-time Mr. Katzen con- 
sidered how he would do it. 

One of the New Andalusian officials, a 
very great personage, chanced to be in 
Europe, and meant on his way home to 
make a short stay in London. The Consul 
decided to utilize him ; nothing venture, 
nothing have. 

Mr. Katzen had everything to gain, and 
very little to lose. 

" What we want is notoriety," he con- 
sidered. "We must get it somehow." 

There is many a true word spoken in jest. 
When Mr. Katzen confided this want to him- 
self he had not the slightest idea how amply 
it would be provided for. Before any very 
long time elapsed, the New Andalusian loan 
was as notorious as the heart of its projector 
could desire. A man never knows what he 
can do till he tries. When Mr. Katzen found 
out the extent of his own cleverness, and got 
the world to recognise it, even Mr. Bernberg 
was moved to a reluctant admiration. 




CHAPTER XII. 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 




>N one of Fortune's wars which was 
raging about the time Mr. Jeffley 
lay ill with his attack of quinsy, it 
chanced that a certain stockbroker, named 
Perham, came to great grief. 

He was not much worse, and he was 
certainly no better, than many others who 
found themselves after the battle sound in 
credit and in purse ; but some one must 
suffer; and in this case Mr. Nicodemus 
Perham chanced to be the sufferer. 

Also his creditors were sufferers. They 
had not even the poor consolation of be- 
moaning their fate in his society. Feeling 
that farewells are often painful, Mr. Perham 



304 MITRE COURT. 



considerately determined to spare his friends 
all trouble on that score, and left England 
without any foolish ceremony of leave-taking. 

Before he was declared a defaulter he had 
gone no one knew whither, leaving everything 
behind he could not conveniently take away 
— amongst other items his family, at that 
time resident in his town house ; and a very 
pretty villa, with lawns sloping to the 
Thames, where he had been wont to enter- 
tain hospitably during the summer of the 
year and of his own prosperity. 

A villa as new as Mr. Perham himself, 
and also like that gentleman, built mostly for 
show — large reception-rooms, hall paved with 
encaustic tiles, windows containing a painful 
amount of plate-glass, staring conservatory, 
boat-house roofed as if it had been a pagoda, 
and painted with as many colours as Joseph's 
coat ; gardens, yards, stabling, which required, 
indeed, as the advertisements said, " only to 
be seen," 

In a word, it was a cockney paradise, a 
place to which it seemed desirable to ask 
persons, who were worth conciliating, to 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 305 

dinner. For some inscrutable reason that at 
the time seemed no doubt gfood enouorh to 
Mr. Perham, Mr. Katzen had once been 
invited to spend a Sunday afternoon at 
Maple Villa — the name by which this Eden 

was known — and the German thought it 

a splendid place then. Inside the house 
were mirrors and heavy curtains, and the 
most expensive and most comfortable furniture 
the best upholsterers could supply ; while the 
dog-cart in which he was driven over to the 
station after a good dinner, a good smoke, 
and some excellent wine, was so well ap- 
pointed that he hesitated a little before 
offering the groom a shilling. 

And now Mr. Perham had gone the way a 
good deal of seemingly prosperous business 
flesh eventually does go, and Maple Villa 
knew its former occupier no more. 

It was never likely either to know him any 
more again for ever. Mr. Perham could not be 
found or heard of — himself was an absentee, 
his estate in bankruptcy, and his assets, such 
as they were, in the hands of a certain firm 
of accountants, who meant to go on squeezing 

VOL. II. 39 



3o6 MITRE COURT. 



the sponge till not a drop remained in it to 
reward their exertions. 

Mr. Perham had taken such remarkably 
good care of number one, however, that the 
sponge-squeezing process proved less satis- 
factory than might have been hoped. 

" He was very selfish, I am afraid," said 
the trustee, naturally indignant at the thought 
of such a failing. " Never considered any 
person but himself. So long as a thing was 
likely to last his time, it mattered not a row 
of pins how those fared who were to come 
after. For example, who but he would have 
taken that Maple Villa on so short a term ? 
Had it been freehold now, or even ninety- 
nine years ; but just the mere fag-end of a 
lease, what can we do with it ?" 

It is mere justice to the speaker to add he 
tried to dispose of the house and contents as 
they stood, but failed, and he was about 
making up his mind to put the furniture up 
to auction when Mr. Katzen made an offer 
to rent the residence for the rest of the 
summer. 

There was a litde humming and hawing 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 307 

about the matter. The trustees did not know 
whether they could so let ; they did not see 
their way ; they were not quite sure of their 
position ; but when Mr. Katzen stated his 
willingness to pay an amount worth while 
putting in their pockets, and of paying it, 
moreover, in advance, the speed with which 
they knew and saw and became satisfied was 
little short of miraculous. 

"Now," thought Mr. Katzen, "we'll give 
that loan a little shove — it shan't stick, as it is 
doing, for want of my putting my shoulder to 
the wheel." 

It must have been delightful to the stately 
gentleman from New Andalusia to see how 
heartily the Consul threw himself into the 
scheme for improving the finances of that 
favoured land. 

As some tradesmen have a map showing 
how every thoroughfare in London has no 
other end or aim than to lead to their estab- 
lishments, so Mr. Katzen had his map to 
prove that all the world's traffic must even- 
tually be conducted to or from New Andalusia. 
With every prospectus he sent this pictorial 

39—2 



3o8 MITRE COURT. 



representation of the hitherto neglected re- 
sources of that country — too Httle known. 
The railways which were to be, he traced in 
red lines, the rivers in blue, connecting canals 
in green, new roads in black, towns that as 
yet had no existence in yellow ; the refer- 
ence notes on the margin were copious as a 
good sized index, while the explanatory 
pamphlet compiled by Mr. Katzen, which 
accompanied the prospectus, was as lengthy 
as a sermon. 

The Consul utilized this pamphlet with 
great skill. He got it reviewed and noticed 
in twenty different ways. In some of the 
daily papers he even managed to secure 
leaders ; in one, New Andalusia was pointed 
to as the source England might best look to 
for her future supplies of meat ; in another, 
allusion was made to the inviting field it 
offered for emigration. The fathers of large 
families were entreated to consider the 
promise of a land which merely needed to be 
tickled in order to produce waving grain and 
the finest of fruits ; young men unable to pro- 
cure employment in England were advised to 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 309 

secure passages for a country where fortunes 
awaited enterprise and industry. 

The treasures of the deep were dragged up 
into the Hght of day ; wonderful accounts also 
were given of cities lying in ruins, concerning 
which history contained no record — cities 
built by the nameless dead, and inhabited 
now merely by wild beasts. 

Fortunately, about the same time a volume 
of travels happened to be published, one 
portion of which described New Andalusia in 
glowing terms as a heaven for sportsmen. 
Its climate was extolled, its inhabitants 
lauded, the beauty of its scenery spoken of 
with enthusiasm, its horses represented as 
the finest in the world. 

Mr. Katzen got hold of the author and in- 
duced him to give a series of lectures, which 
paid a great deal better than the book. 
Little by little, by mere dint of assurance and 
piling statement upon statement, New Anda- 
lusia became for a season as well-known as 
the Monument. 

Each year sees one craze, at all events, 
possessing the British public ; and that year 



MITRE COURT. 



many persons went crazy about New Anda- 
lusia. 

" In its sun, in its soil, in its climate, thrice 
blessed," quoted the prospectus ; and the 
man did not live who could gainsay the truth 
of this assertion. 

Mr. Katzen had got a good thing, and he 
found himself competent to work it. When 
once he warmed thoroughly to his work, he 
felt it almost too easy. With a safe con- 
science he was able to invite investigation. 

Even to Mr. Bernberg's mines he had not 
to tell an untruth about anything. Gold was 
in New Andalusia ; how much or how little 
scarcely affected the question. As for the 
government, it honestly intended to spend 
greater part of the loan in opening up the 
country. Not a penny piece did they owe — 
— perhaps for a sufficient reason. There 
were no old scandals that could be raked up, 
no cheated creditors to sneer or warn ; all 
was fair and above-board — pearls, coral-reefs, 
sponges, cattle, game, gold, fertility ; any in- 
tending bondholder might satisfy himself 
there was no deception. 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 



As is usual in such cases, a cloud of wit- 
nesses arose to give testimony concerning the 
richness of this new land of Goshen. All it 
required was Development, and Mr. Katzen 
evidently meant it should not long lack the 
means of developing. 

He had pretty nearly carte blanche to do 
what he liked. To New Andalusia the idea 
of getting a loan seemed so utterly amazing, 
she was prepared to pay heavily for the privi- 
lege. She was willing to concede almost 
anything except the money ; indeed there 
was nothing she wanted much more than 
settlers possessed of means and enterprise. 

She was quite rejoiced to hear that capi- 
talists were prepared to search her mines, 
and kill her cattle, and work her fisheries, 
and cultivate her land, and, if occasionally 
she did wonder whether there was nothing 
left in Britain on which to expend its surplus 
wealth, she was far too lazy to pursue the 
question to an end. 

Anybody who liked to pay for them was 
welcome to her pearls, or her minerals, or 
her cattle, or all she possessed, in fact. Pay- 



312 MITRE COURT. 



ment was essential, but as yet she had not 
grown extravagant in her ideas. 

" That is to come," said Mr. Katzen, 
laughing. *' Happy, in this case, are the first 
served." 

For it was clearly understood that so much 
per cent, represented but a little of the 
interest bondholders might look to receive. 
Figuratively speaking, the whole of New 
Andalusia was to be at their beck and call. 
If they found enough money, they might go 
in and possess. 

They would be allowed to fence in the 
happy hunting-grounds where the buffalo, 
in a sort of armed neutrality, cropped with 
the wild cattle ; they could plant, and build, 
and fish, and shoot, and erect meat-preserving 
sheds, and run out wharves, and, in fact, 
convert the land of promise into another 
Albion. 

Happy, happy New Andalusia — unlimited 
gin, unlimited poverty, unlimited ugliness — 
no wonder your heart waxed warm and your 
fair face cheerful at such a prospect. 

If over your hills a fresh generation of 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 313 

cattle is now roaming, if in your mines the 
gold still remains hidden, if your pearls and 
coral and sponges have not yet drugged the 
European market, it is scarcely your fault. 

When your story comes to be written and 
your people clad, Moore's line may probably 
be quoted : 

" 'Twas fate, they'll say, a wayward fate ;" 

only for fate the name of Katzen may be 
substituted ; and yet Mr. Katzen worked in- 
defatigably. First and last he garnered 
somethinof near three hundred thousand 
pounds, which, however, can be only re- 
garded as a flea-bite in comparison with 
what New Andalusia wanted. 

At Maple Villa the Consul received all 
sorts and conditions of men. He did not 
live there — the suburbs or the country, with- 
out plenty of society, in fact, represented to 
him the desolation of abomination. In the 
abstract he might love nature ; in the con- 
crete he adored the city. In all the world 
there seemed to him no place so desirable as 
that tract of pavement round and about the 
Royal Exchange : and for this reason he only 



314 MITRE COURT. 



used Maple Villa as a house of entertainment 
where he invited men who could, he believed, 
prove useful — men he wanted to impress or 
humbuQf. 

In this species of commercial diversion he 
found Mr. Rothsattel an invaluable assistant. 
He engaged cooks and waiters ; he knew 
how to cater well and yet economically — 
where to procure the best wines, the oldest 
brandy, the finest liqueurs. Mr, Katzen had 
but to say how many guests were to be 
" victualled," and he was able to dismiss the 
subject from his mind, confident when the 
day and the hour arrived everything would 
be in perfect order. 

And so the game went merrily on ; bonds 
at Mitre Court were dealt out as quietly and 
swiftly as a pack of cards. 

Never before had so much money passed 
through Mr. Katzen's hands. He disbursed 
freely, yet prudently. The fame of his doings 
was wafted across the ocean to New Anda- 
lusia, where those in authority congratulated 
each his fellow upon the cleverness of their 
Consul. 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 31 S 

Through all, however, Mr. Katzen kept 
himself from being uplifted. He walked 
with outward serenity through prosperity, as 
he had walked with apparent calmness while 
luck kept dead against him. 

He did not lose his head and begin to talk 
big and make enemies — even to Mr. Bern- 
berg he gave himself no airs, though when 
he happened one day casually to remark he 
only hoped to get bread and cheese out of 
the loan, his dear Victor laughed aloud. 

" You have a pocket full of concessions, I 
suppose i*" said that gentleman. 

In answer to which Mr. Katzen only 
shrugged his shoulders. 

Everything considered, his humility was 
really wonderful. He went in and out of 
Fowkes' Buildings, as Mrs. Jeffley declared, 
"just like anybody else." 

He seemed perfectly contented with its 
former accommodation, and he did not talk 
much about Maple Villa, though he once 
seduced Mr. Jeffley down to look at that 
desirable residence, which impressed Jack 
more perhaps than it ought to have done. 



3i6 MITRE COURT. 



" My conscience !"' he remarked to Frank 
Scott after he had described the beauties 
and glories of Mr. Perham's former abode. 
" Katzen must be a cleverer fellow than I 
ever gave him credit for ; why, the place is 
ht for a lord !" 

" Hang him !" That was all Mr. Frank 
said ; but he said it with fervour. 

Mr. Jeffley looked at the young man in a 
sort of troubled surprise. 

" Why, Scott," he exclaimed, " what has 
come to you ? I used to be bad enough about 
Katzen — I never did like him, and I never 
shall ; but you are worse now than I ever was. 
Seems to me you're altogether changed, man, 
somehow ; you've never been the same since 
that night we went up to Mr. Fulmer's." 

** Have I not?" said Frank a little con- 
sciously. 

" No, and I can't make it out, Frank. You 
were all for peace and goodwill, and thinking 
the best of everybody ; but now if you are 
able to find a nasty thing to say, you say it. 
What has gone wrong with you, my lad ? 
Make a clean breast of the trouble." 



MR. JEFF LEY IS PERPLEXED. 317 

"I am unhappy," was the reply, "and 
nobody is genial when unhappy." 

" Is that so ?" asked Jack ; and he con- 
sidered this proposition while young Scott 
held his peace. 

" I don't quite go with you," went on Mr. 
Jeffley after a pause; "but that is neither 
here nor there perhaps. What is more to the 
purpose, why are you unhappy ? Out with 
the worry — a sorrow told is a sorrow lightened, 
remember." 

" I can tell you no more about it." 

" Won't you let me try to help you ?" 

" No one can help me." 

" Well, if you are sure of that " 

" I am quite sure of that." 

Mr. Jeffley smoked on in silence; at last he 
took his pipe from his mouth, knocked out the 
ashes, and said : " There is one thing, Scott, 
I think I am sure of too. I am afraid you 
have got the nineteenth-century complaint." 

" I do not understand you." 

" The complaint of this part of the nine- 
teenth century anyhow," proceeded Jack 
slowly — " discontent." 



3i8 MITRE COURT. 



" Do you think I am discontented ?" 

" Positive you are ; and how you come to 
be discontented baffles me. Eighteen months 
ago, a brighter, cheerier young fellow couldn't 
be found ; then you had but a poor salary and 
no prospects, now you have a fair salary and 
good prospects." 

" No, I have not," interrupted Frank. " I 
can see the lie of the country pretty well — I am 
to work up a business for my principals, and 
then when I have done it, in will step the two 
young men, and I may go and hang myself." 

Mr. Jeffley looked at the speaker in blank 
astonishment. 

" If that isn't something!" he ejaculated at 
last. 

" I would rather be working for myself in 
the poorest way," went on Frank vehemently, 
" than be at the beck and call of any man 
even at a large salary." 

"All alike — all alike!" exclaimed Mr. 
Jeffley. " Every servant wants to be master 
nowadays." 

" Surely you cannot blame the servant for 
that," said Frank. 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 319 

" Oh ! I blame nobody," returned Jack, 
commencing to fill his pipe once again. 

" But you do," was the answer : '' you think 
everybody should be content going on plod- 
ding — that he never ought to try to rise." 

" I think if a person takes a salary he ought 
to be satisfied to do the work he takes it for. 
I can't believe any man can put his heart into 
his employer's business while he is consider- 
ing how he can better himself ; it isn't feasible, 
my boy. Maybe with these new lights of 
yours you'll think I am talking rubbish, but it 
is right to be single minded. If a man can't 
serve God and Mammon, and we know that 
is so, I am very sure he cannot serve his 
master who pays him weekly or monthly 
wages, and some tempting speculation in the 
next street." 

Frank Scott looked at Mr. Jeffley with 
surprised bewilderment, then he said : 

" So you imagine speculation is what tempts 
me : 

" I don't knowabout speculation," answered 
Jack ; " but I have a suspicion you want to 
make money too fast." 



320 MITRE COURT. 

" No, no — not too fast ; I only want to 
make it before youth has gone, and hope 
grown old." 

"Stuff!" and Mr. Jeffley smoked calmly on. 

" If you knew," began Frank, after a long 
pause — " if you only could know the hopes 
with which I came back to England — the 
purposes I had " 

" Most folks have had hopes and purposes, 
I suppose," commented Mr. Jeffley drily. 
"You are not the only one in the world who 
has fancied he was awake while he was really 
dreaming. We have all our notions — I know 
I had mine ; but there — Lord ! — what's the 
use of notions, when people have to earn their 
bread ?" 

Had this been a general proposition, Mr. 
Francis Scott would have answered, " They 
are of no use," but when it came to be applied 
to himself, the complexion of affairs changed. 
As for Jack, and whatever notions he might 
ever have indulged in, that also was quite 
another matter. 

Looking at that satisfied, comfortable, 
unsentimental face, Frank felt his feelings 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 



were one thing-, and Mr, Jeffley's another. 
Then it flashed upon him there had been a 
time when he had thought otherwise ; a time 
when, without sign or speech, he pitied Jack, 
knowing that in his Hfe there was a great 
want. 

Now — how was it ? Had Jack grown 
even more commonplace than of yore — or 
had he, Frank, gone on ? He did not look 
at Jack with quite the same eyes as formerly, 
and Jack most certainly did not regard him 
from exactly the same point of view. 

He and Jack had somehow grown apart. 
It was very hard indeed, Frank considered, 
for he was sure he felt just the same towards 
Jack, while Jack knew he was not the same. 

And Messrs. Deedes' manager mourned 
over the fact with a most unselfish sorrow. 
It grieved him to see what he considered the 
canker of discontent destroying a nature he 
formerly believed sweet ; further, he imagined 
Frank's recent unsettledness was doing him 
no good in St. Dunstan's Hill. 

"He got a grand chance, and he is pitching 
it away as a child might a diamond," he 

VOL. II. 40 



322 MITRE COURT. 



thought ; " and yet I am half afraid to give 
him a hint Deedes' are not altogether pleased, 
lest I may make matters worse." 

" Look here, Scott," he said at last, breaking 
the silence which had followed his last remark, 
" whatever hopes you came back to England 
with, try to put them behind you. I am vexed 
things have not turned out as you wished, 
but it is the common lot." 

" That is not much comfort," commented 
Mr. Scott. 

" I think it ought to be," answered Jack. 
" It would scarce be pleasant to feel you 
had all the world's troubles on your own 
shoulders ; but whatever you may think about 
that, I am very sure you had best make a 
clean sweep — wipe the slate and begin a fresh 
score — you'll feel ever so much lighter. 
What can't be cured, you know, must be 
endured." 

" You know nothing about what is the 
matter with me," returned Frank. 

" How should I, when you won't tell me ? 
What I do know is that you are doing yourself 
no good with your employers. Mr. Deedes sees 



MR. JEFFLEY IS PERPLEXED. 323 

your heart is not in your work. He has said 
as much to me. He spoke about you very 
kindly — but " 

" It was not Mr. Fulmer then ?" interrupted 
the young man. " I thought perhaps your 
friend might have been making some remarks 
on the subject." 

" He did not make any remark except that 
he suspected what was the matter with you." 

" Oh ! and what does he suspect ?" 

" That you are in love — don't look so 
angry — he was not finding any fault, he only 
said he would rather, on the whole, you had 
taken to drink." 

" How kind — how considerate ! He didn't 
by any chance say who I was in love with ?" 

" No ! I made so free as to ask him." 

" Is it possible ? And he did not order 
you out for instant execution ?" 

"He only said if he knew, it would not be 
fair to tell." 

" I wish Mr. Fulmer was " well, what 

Mr. Frank Scott wished did not sound nice 
at all. 

" Tut-tut-tut," cried Mr. Jeffley. " Frank, 

40 — 2 



324 MITRE COURT. 



you are set on ruining yourself. I would not 
have told you a word of all this if I had not 
felt sure you are trying the firm over-much. 
They will bear a good deal — but I am in 
awful fear they may lose patience some fine 
day, and say what you won't much like to 
hear." 

" But for one thing I would save them the 
trouble/' retorted Mr. Scott, flinging himself 
in a gust of passion out of the room. 

" There," remarked Jack, " I said I would 
only make matters worse — and I have 
done it." 



END OF VOL. II. 



BILLING AND SONS, PKINTERb, GUILDFORD. 

G. C. &• Co. 



0)l:y'r 






■ i 




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